In his 2002 collection of essays How to be Alone Jonathan Franzen wrote: “Readers and writers are united in their need for solitude, in their pursuit of substance in a time of ever-increasing evanescence: in their reach inward, via print, for a way out of loneliness.”

This is an apposite sentiment coming from a writer who would be named variously “the great American novelist”, “a public intellectual” and “kind of a prick”...

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