Brow Beat

Jonathan Franzen’s Next Novel Is Called Purity

Jonathan Franzen in 2012.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for HBO

The New York Times reports that Jonathan Franzen’s next novel will be published in 2015 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux and will be called Purity. A “multigenerational American epic that spans decades and continents,” the book is “not strict realism,” according to the president and publisher of FSG, Jonathan Galassi. “There’s a kind of mythic undertone to the story,” Galassi said.

The title refers, at least in part, to the protagonist, “a young woman named Purity Tyler, or Pip, who doesn’t know who her father is and sets out to uncover his identity.” Her nickname—and her separation from her father—calls to mind the orphan Pip from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, one of Franzen’s more obvious influences. (Literary critic Harold Bloom described Franzen’s last novel, Freedom, as “an imitation of Dickens.” He was not a fan.)

Another character in the book has shades of Edward Snowden: The story hinges, the Times says, on Pip’s “relationship with a charismatic hacker and whistleblower.” Presumably, then, the novel will give Franzen a chance to explore his complicated feelings about the Internet. It may also provide the opportunity for him to indulge his love for the German language, as the story “stretches from contemporary American to South American to East Germany before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.”

The book will be published next September.

Previously
Franzen, Wallace, and the Shame of Storytelling

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