Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

November 21st, 2010 at 12:00 pm

“It wasn’t the people with sociable genes who fled the crowded Old World for the new continent; it was the people who didn’t get along well with others.”

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom is about a crazy family.  But not in an Augusten Burroughs way. And not in a quirky way like John Irving or Gary Shteyngart. But definitely white and suburban and privileged like Cheever or Richard Yates. Maybe people are so excited because Franzen might be the next Fitzgerald? Does Franzen drink?

Freedom is about love, sex, work, depression, mistakes. Existential crises. Familial drama. College love. Professional ambitions. It’s domestic. It’s a soap opera. A very, very well-written soap opera.

It operates within the genre of “Ripped-from-the-headlines” and “Modern.” There is Mountaintop Removal and Iraq War. It is immediate present now.

Freedom is interesting in its straightforwardness. It carries with it a certain severity/realism. Things, plainly said. But not in a blunt Cormac McCarthy way. An eloquent Milan Kundera way.

Freedom is moral. As James Woods would have it. And it takes place mostly in the mind. Do you take offense with the thoughtful consideration given to contemplative evaluation of some of our era’s pressing questions: the war in Iraq, environmentalism, overpopulation? “Freedom” is certainly an “intellectual” novel. A serious book with aspirations. And yes, for that it is elitist and pompous. And absolutely delicious and why I loved it.

Freedom’s appeal lays in its verisimilitude and its authenticity lays in its banal interest. Normal, everyday things; dramatically told with stirring prose.

And while so much of it really is just people conversing and articulating arguments and descriptions taking place within the mind, there is also really great pacing and plot. It flows with a rhythm that is steady and sure. Franzen beats a cool cadence. It reads.

And of course it’s impossible to prove any of this because to do so would require too much quoting because these things take time, like jazz songs, the really good stuff doesn’t hit you for a few bars/pages. (My only offerings are the quotes opening and closing this humble opinion.)

Freedom is a world inhabited and called to life by its own politics, behavior, happenings, and poor decisions: a life, a fully wrought and imagined life. Thus, a story.

Have we a myth?

“The life, neither glamorous nor outstanding but nevertheless admirable and essential…”

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