On October 5, this timeline will be blessed/cursed by Jonathan Franzen’s first novel since 2015: Crossroads, or, if you’re not abbreviating, Crossroads: A Novel: A Key to All Mythologies, Volume 1. It’s the first novel of a trilogy, A Key to All Mythologies, which, yes, nods to the doomed scholarly project in Middlemarch, which is a pretty good joke. Today, Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover:
Crossroads introduces us to 1971 suburban Chicago’s Hildebrandt family—unhappy spouses Russ and Marion, their son Clem (who has recently returned home from college), their daughter Becky (who has veered into the era’s counterculture), and their youngest son Perry (who’s sick of selling pot and is looking for a change). Crossroads will employ Franzen’s traditional multi-narrator voice, and “reach back to the early twentieth century”; the trilogy will “span three generations and trace the inner life of our culture through the present day.”
I’m wondering: with the release of Crossroads, is Jonathan Franzen going to become cool again? He’s become a popular target of snark over the years, mostly for loving birds, offering advice, and being mean to Oprah. But come October, we’ll either be newly vaccinated trying to make sense of our post-pandemic world, or sitting in our homes looking to find some form of catharsis. So maybe what we’ll need, even more than usual, is a systems novel.