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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

I couldn't put this book down for five days and tore through it avidly.  Franzen writes so fluidly and with such intelligence that 550 pages went by like 50.  No kidding.  And that is rare indeed.  But is it in the end enough of an accomplishment?  To be five pounds of pure high-brow entertainment?

For the characters in Purity are monotonically neurotic and unloveable.

a la Dickens, the opening, central character, Pip (short somehow for "Purity") is an orphan without knowledge of her fortune.

Franzen searches for the zeitgeist of our times, and comes up with the Internet. The moral seems to be that in a world where all information is global and transparent and available to all, we know less about ourselves.

He can write with great emotion but has chosen a somewhat rarefied (and loathesome) group of characters to bring to life -- the mothers and fathers pictured, almost without fail, are satanically bad parents.

natural description extraordinary

for a novel that centers on "high tech," and Wiki-Leaks-like network infiltration and security hijacking, the novel is remarkably un-savvy about tech, relying on "googling" and "databases" and "face-recognition software" in the most general usage for most of its sleuthing.

relationship between Pip and her mother (Annabel), her eventual father (Tom), and the leader of the SunShine Project (Andreas Wolf)

Andreas Wolf's childhood in East Germany and his relationship with Annagret

themes:  power, feminism, secrecy vs. openness

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