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Jonathan Franzen is an award-winning American novelist and essayist. Franzen was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, and educated at Swarthmore College.[…]

Jane Smiley’s “Greenlanders,” among others.

Question: What is the most under-appreciated book?

Jonathan Franzen: You can’t count people who’ve gotten the Nobel Prize, right, because they’ve gotten the Nobel Prize. A book I’m surprised no one ever talks about, a book I’m disappointed no one ever talks about because I don’t really know of a better American novel from the last 20 years is Jane Smiley’s book “The Greenlanders.” It’s her finest work to my knowledge. So I would mention that.

And while we’re talking about fine novels from the last 20 years, I would have to throw out [David Foster Wallace's] “Infinite Jest.” I know that it is much more spoken of; but I still don’t think it got as much attention as it deserved. It’s a giant book, it’s a wonderful book.

These things are relative. David Wallace nor Jane Smiley--they’re not exactly unknown writers. A little bit more in that category would be Christina Stead with, “The Man Who Loved Children,” which I’m on a bit of a personal crusade to call people’s attention to; a genuine family novel masterpiece unlike any other book ever written, came out of America by an Australian ex-pat genius named Christina Stead, and I’ll plug that too.

Recorded On: April 1, 2008