Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom

FreedomFreedom by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Corrections sits on my bookshelf unread. Two attempts left me saying “too depressing” so I didn’t know if Freedom would end up discarded as well.

It didn’t. 562 pages in just over a week. That’s a book that held my interest.

But I don’t know exactly what it means. Competition, rage, depression, marriage (not love), “freedom”, nature, middle-class, midwest, friendship (real love), change, desperate devotion, parenting, guilt, un-parenting, cruelty, despair – utter despair. All of these things.

Did I learn anything new about life? Probably not? I watched the life of this family through a magnifying glass; watched the people as they became particles, super-colliding into one another, disintegrating & merging, becoming different (but not new) things.

About “freedom”, this review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/16/boo…

says this:
“Its title, “Freedom,” announces a theme that runs like a riptide beneath the narrative — lots of talk about what liberty means in terms of being free of familial responsibilities and ideological beliefs, and the rootlessness and dislocation that often follow in its wake.”

and this review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/boo…

says this:
“It is no surprise, then, that “the personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage,””

This does not seem like “freedom” to me. However, as the review goes on, this most certainly does:

“Franzen makes us see, as the best writers always have, that the only pathway to freedom runs through the maze of the interior life”

There are no heroes in this book, only villains. But this is not a depressing book. It is interesting and you should read it. Franzen is a great writer and it’s a great book. The novel’s structure and POVs are illuminating by themselves.

But I don’t think you should learn anything from this novel. You should enjoy the complex taste of it in your mouth, and then spit it out.

View all my reviews

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