Jonathan Franzen appearing live and in-person

When reviewers labelled Crossroads as Jonathan Franzen’s “greatest novel to date”, that’s no small claim. Across his career, Franzen has been celebrated as one of his generation’s champions of the form, from The Corrections, to Purity or Freedom, a new Jonathan Franzen novel is an event.

But Crossroads proved to be irresistible: one of the books of the summer. And his sweeping, expansive story of the Hildebrandt family in 1970s Chicago is only the beginning. In George Eliot’s masterpiece Middlemarch, the name ‘A Key to All Mythologies’ is a joke: the unfinished manuscript of the pedantic, self-absorbed Reverend Casaubon.

So when Franzen announced that Crossroads was to be the first in a projected trilogy that would constitute his ‘Key to All Mythologies’ and cover half a century of American life, in lesser hands the prospect might be daunting or risible. But Franzen’s exploration of faith and family, hope and loss, grief and striving across generations and against the backdrop of historical change is as satisfying as it is ambitious.

Now, Franzen is coming to Sydney live and in-person, and for one night only you can see him discussing the power of the novel, his singular contribution to it as a form, and what brought him to Crossroads with the Festival’s outgoing Artistic Director, Michael Williams.

Jonathan Franzen (International)

Jonathan Franzen

 Jonathan Franzen is the author of six novels, most recently Crossroads and Purity, and five works of nonfiction, including The Discomfort ZoneFarther Away and The End of the End of the EarthAmong his honours are the National Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Award, the Heartland Prize, Die Welt Literature Prize, the Budapest Grand Prize, and the first Carlos Fuentes Medal awarded at the Guadalajara International Book Fair. Jonathan is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. An ardent bird-watcher, he has served on the board of the American Bird Conservancy since 2008, and has received the EuroNatur Award for his work in bird conservation.

Michael Williams (Australian)

Michael Williams

Michael Williams joined Sydney Writers’ Festival in September 2020, as the Artistic Director navigating the post-pandemic landscape going into the 2021 festival. He has spent the past decade at the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne; as its founding Head of Programming in 2009, and then as its Director from September 2011. A regular host and interviewer for literary and ideas events around Australia – including a long-standing association with Sydney Writers’ Festival – his background is in publishing and broadcasting. He has hosted two shows on ABC Radio National – Blueprint for Living (2015-2016) and Talkfest (2017-2018) – was a regular on ABC TV’s The Book Club, and remains a regular guest on ABC radio and TV. Michael has also worked as a Breakfast presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR, as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, in publishing in Australia and New York, and has written extensively for The GuardianThe AgeSydney Morning Herald and elsewhere. He is currently also host of Guardian Australia’s monthly book club.