Jonathan Franzen is the author of four novels (Freedom, The Corrections, Strong Motion, and The Twenty-Seventh City), a collection of essays (How to Be Alone), a personal history (The Discomfort Zone), and a translation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, all published by FSG. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California. The following piece is excerpted from his new book Farther Away: Essays.
There’s so much to read and so little time. I’m always looking for a reason to put a book down and not pick it up again, and one of the best reasons a writer can give me is to use the word then as a conjunction without a subject following it.
She lit a Camel Light, then dragged deeply.
He dims the lamp and opens the window, then pulls the body inside.
I walked to the door and opened it, then turned back to her.
If you use comma-then like this frequently in the early pages of your book, I won’t read any farther unless I’m forced to, because you’ve already told me several important things about yourself as a writer, none of them good. (more…)