Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen


It’s thick and richly painted as far as it goes – but the sameness of each character’s “interior-ity” (is that a word?) deadened it for me, on the whole. Everything happened to everyone, and every thought occurred to every character, all the time. In the end, I was repelled (and truth be told, compelled) by how Franzen unspools this vast web of interconnected, richly detailed and remembered neuroses, and lets each character be driven by that, by neuroses and self-obsession. He’s so intelligent and wants to show it all over a wide canvas socially and politically – but I felt barely a ripple of narrative tension. A hundred pages from the end, I felt I could not care less about what was going to happen to the major players. Weirdly, I was most drawn to the characters of Joey and Connie. I hated Walter, though I believed him. Richard I didn’t believe, he seemed another side of Walter. Patty was hard for me to believe — Walter and Richard I could buy as having such verbose and self-scrutinizing inner lives – but not the alleged college jock. Also liked Patty's female college stalker, until she got addicted to heroin and sort of dribbled off into cliche. A way different sort of ménage a trois than To The End of the Land, in any event. Also, of course, energetically envious of the discipline and imagination required to get such a monster down on paper. Even if I seem to critically dislike it.

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