I have never read a Jonathan Franzen novel and I never will. I have imbibed box wine, but it’s been 20 years and I only ever drank Chillable Red, which I maintain is perfectly drinkable.
None of this stops me from pairing Franzen novels with Franzia varietals. I’ve chosen six pairings. Descriptions are from goodreads.com (edited for length) and franzia.com.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen paired with Crisp White by Franzia
THE BOOK: In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.
THE WINE: A medium-bodied white wine with floral aromas and fruit flavors. Serve chilled. Enjoy with fresh vegetables and light pasta plates.
WHY: This novel sounds medium-bodied and white, just like the wine.
Purity by Jonathan Franzen paired with Refreshing White by Franzia
THE BOOK: Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has imagined a world of vividly original characters—Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers—and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Purity is the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.
THE WINE: A white wine that is light and easy to drink. Serve chilled. Pair with simple pasta or seafood.
WHY: Purity sounds heavy and hard to read, so I chose a wine that is its opposite.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen paired with Rhine by Franzia
THE BOOK: Enid, who loves to have fun, can still look forward to a final family Christmas and to the ten-day Nordic Pleasurelines Luxury Fall Color Cruise that she and Alfred are about to embark on. But even these few remaining joys are threatened by her husband’s growing confusion and unsteadiness. As Alfred enters his final decline, the Lamberts must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.
THE WINE: A fresh and crisp white wine with floral aromas and sweet flavors. Serve with lighter meats and cheeses. Serve chilled.
WHY: A chilled wine for a chilling(ly bad?) novel.
How To Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen paired with Pinot Grigio/Colombard by Franzia
THE BOOK: While the essays in this collection range in subject matter from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each one wrestles with the essential themes of Franzen’s writing: the erosion of civil life and private dignity; and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Reprinted here for the first time is Franzen’s controversial 1996 investigation of the fate of the American novel in what became known as “the Harper’s essay,” as well as his award-winning narrative of his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and a rueful account of his brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.
THE WINE: A fresh, light-bodied white wine with citrus flavors and a vibrant finish. Best served chilled. Enjoy with salads and grilled seafood.
WHY: A collection of essays is unlikely to have a “vibrant finish,” but this wine promises one.
Strong Motion by Jonathan Franzen paired with Moscato by Franzia
THE BOOK: Louis Holland arrives in Boston in a spring of strange happenings—earthquakes strike the city, and the first one kills his grandmother. During a bitter feud over the inheritance Louis falls in love with Renee Seitchek, a passionate and brilliant seismologist, whose discoveries about the origin of the earthquakes complicate everything. Potent and vivid, ‘Strong Motion’ is a complex story of change from the forceful imagination of Jonathan Franzen.
THE WINE: A sweet wine with delicate aromas of juicy peach and flavors of ripe apricot. Serve chilled. Enjoy with spicy foods and Asian cuisine.
WHY: This book cover features a woman’s nipples, which is as inappropriate as my choice of a wine that smells like a “juicy peach.”
Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen paired with Chardonnay by Franzia
THE BOOK: In Farther Away, which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him. Taken together, these essays trace the progress of unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature, and with some of the most important issues of our day. Farther Away is remarkable, provocative, and necessary.
THE WINE: A crisp wine with a clean finish. Semi-dry and medium bodied. Serve chilled. Complements chicken, simple pastas and seafood.
WHY: Simple. Pastas.