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Jonathan Franzen's new novel takes on sexual politics, love, and parenthood

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Greg Martin/Farrar Straus Giroux

(Read caption) Jonathan Franzen's publisher is describing his new novel as a 'multigenerational American epic' that spans several decades and continents.

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Get ready for another Franzen frenzy.

Jonathan Franzen will release his fifth novel, "Purity," in September 2015, the author's publisher announced Monday. It will be his first novel since "Freedom" stormed the bestseller lists in 2010.

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The novel is a "multigenerational American epic" that spans several decades and continents, publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux said. It centers on a young woman named Purity Tyler, or Pip, who works to uncover her father's identity. "Purity" crosses continents from contemporary America to South America and Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and tackles big themes like Franzen's earlier bestselling novels "Freedom" and "The Corrections." For "Purity," the themes include sexual politics, love, and parenthood, according to early reports.

Nicholas Pearson, Franzen’s editor in the UK at Fourth Estate, told the Guardian that “at its heart, Purity is the story of a young woman searching for the father she has never met, a journey that brings her into the orbit of an outlaw-hero of the internet.”

“It’s a book about secrets: both state and corporate secrets, and the power of secrets within families, how they connect us to others and how they affect our emotional lives,” said Pearson.

“As he did in 'The Corrections' and 'Freedom,' Jonathan gives us characters we truly believe in and whose lives we become completely absorbed in. This time the story is told in a slightly different register to its predecessors – a realistic novel with a faint dreamlike texture. For me it is something new and bold and very thrilling."

Publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux’s president Jonathan Galassi told The New York Times that the story “hinges on the mystery of Pip’s family history and her relationship with a charismatic hacker and whistleblower."

He also said the story marks a stylistic departure for Franzen.

“There’s a kind of fabulist quality to it,” he said. “It’s not strict realism. There’s a kind of mythic undertone to the story.”

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Franzen has spent the last two years "working intensely" on "Purity," according to the Times.

Next year also sees the release of a biography of the author by Philip Weinstein, an English professor at Swarthmore College. "Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage” will explore “Franzen’s metamorphoses as a person and as a writer” and includes an analysis of “Purity.”


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