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:…

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:…

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.

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I just posted this review of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue at Goodreads:

Michael Chabon is one of my favorite authors. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is my favorite of his novels and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is second. In Telegraph Avenue Chabon displays his talent in nearly every sentence. As a new writer towards the beginning of his learning curve, it amazes me to observe a master word-picker at work. I wonder how long he spends on each one of his sentences. His vocabulary and dexterity are just off the charts. He deserves to be considered one of the most talented novelists at work today.
That said, this novel wasn’t in my top seven or so of his works. While impressed with his words and sentences, the story itself didn’t fully hold my interest. I found myself skipping paragraphs. And the single-sentence chapter, while novel, was skipped as well. I liked the characters, their relationships, and the setting being centered on a Berkley record store. I also liked the blimp. But, if you haven’t read Chabon (and please do) start with some of his other novels first and read this one down the road.