Author: Jonathan Franzen
Type: Fiction, novel
I read it: November 2011
I’m not sure I can add a whole lot to the conversation about Freedom, other than that I enjoyed a story which was both sweeping and personal in its scope. I doubt I’ll soon forget the main foursome of Walter, Patty, and Joey Berglund, and Richard Katz. Richard and Walter’s relationship is especially fruitful for dissection. The side topics of music and overpopulation are astute, and it doesn’t hurt that a lot of the action takes place in Minnesota.
It’s clear that many modern novels are about people trying to find a story for themselves in an ever more fractured age: Walter’s core problem was that “there was no controlling narrative: he seemed to himself a purely reactive pinball in a game whose only object was to stay alive for staying alive’s sake.” The book is one long train wreck of bad decisions, which makes for quick, but not superficial, reading. The sentences themselves aren’t necessarily poetic but Franzen paints a colorful and memorable world that is instantly familiar: I don’t think there was a single night of digging into the book in which I couldn’t pull at least one phrase or paragraph out and apply it directly to people I knew, or to myself. And what more can you ask? So don’t believe the hype: believe the page.