Chabon, Eugenides, and Wallace all claimed at least one of these three laurels at some point in their careers, but drew on many of the same elements as the earlier novel: the comic tale of a family torn between the Midwest and the East Coast, the structure of interlocking novellas, the generous helping of social commentary.But little by little, in spite of myself, I developed this passion, and although one half of a passion is obsession, the other half is love. [By] not merely liking nature but loving a specific and vital part of it, I had no choice but to start worrying about the environment again. My anger and pain and despair about the planet were only increased by my concern for wild birds, and yet, as I began to get involved in bird conservation and learned more about the many threats that birds face, it became, strangely, easier, not harder, to live with my anger and despair and pain.And so, yes, I kept a meticulous list of the birds I’d seen, and, yes, I went to inordinate lengths to see new species. The news on that front was no better than when I’d decided to quit worrying about it — was considerably worse, in fact — but now those threatened forests and wetlands and oceans weren’t just pretty scenes for me to enjoy. Franzen’s point in this essay is that love — ugly, messy love — improved his relationship with the world. It’s not for nothing that Franzen’s description of love (“a bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you”) sounds a lot like his description of fiction.But no less important, whenever I looked at a bird, any bird, even a pigeon or a sparrow, I could feel my heart overflow with love. And I think this shift — from anger-driven environmentalism to love-driven environmentalism, or from depressive realism to tragic realism — explains much of what makes Franzen such a powerful and exasperating writer. (With categories like these, you’re never entirely one or the other.) But it’s also why he can be so moving and provocative. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address. Also in 2002, Franzen’s essay, “My Father’s Brain,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors, and , September 2, 2001, sec. Of maximum-security prisons, Dumpster diving, and privacy in a technological age: a collection of essays diverse and entertaining by the author of last year’s Big Novel, The Corrections.This last edit is pretty interesting, given the competitive relationship between the two authors.One way to understand is as a reflection of that relationship — not only in the title essay, on Wallace’s suicide, but in subtler echoes like the fact that Franzen gave “Pain Won’t Kill You” as the commencement address at Kenyon, where Wallace also gave a widely-admired address.But it jettisoned the vestiges of Pynchonesque conspiracy from Franzen’s earlier work that lingered in ends in comedy, it is a decidedly elegiac strain of comedy.It is as if, at the novel’s end, Franzen picks up the shards of the world we’ve watched crumble for the previous 600 pages — all of the adultery and betrayal and self-deception and ecological disaster and bad Bush Administration foreign policy — and makes no effort to reassemble them, daring his audience to love in spite of such wastage.