Brent Legault's Reviews > Freedom

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
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's review
Sep 17, 2010

it was ok
Read from September 17 to 24, 2010

Shamelessly conventional, both in style (especially in style) and subject. Packed with adverbs. Multitudes of awkward passages. Lacking in musicality. Poetryless. Written as if English were a tool rather than an instrument. Super shrill -- three of the four main characters seem to speak and even think at only the highest volume. There are no conversations, only arguments. Timid of mystery and everything is explained. Chock full of contemporary zzzzzzzz trivia and contemporary zzzzzzz culture. At times, I felt like I was reading a foreigner's attempt -- from someplace where English is native but poorly practiced, say, Hong Kong or Australia -- to write The Great American Novel and that he gleaned all of his "facts" from movies, tv and wikipedia. It's not so much that the "facts" were wrong, it's that they resembled painted props, wheeled into scenes to lend them "authenticity," wielded without finesse, sometimes even falling over on top of unsuspecting characters, characters who didn't have a clue that their phony world was crashing down on them. The whole novel, in fact, makes a better bludgeon than a book. As a bludgeon, it has heft. As a book, it is as weightless and as relevant as a Cerulean Warbler.
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05/13/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Maia clearly you don't like Franzen and thta's fine--I felt similarly when I read "The Corrections--but you can't really get away with calling Australia "someplace where English is native but poorly practiced." A LOT of people might say that about us Americans too! Australia has its own perfectly ok English and has produced some wonderful literature.

Also, English is NOT native by any means in Hong Kong!

I do agree with you about the book's awkwardness, though. I think this is Franzen--good but not brilliant and certainly not half as good as critics want to opine he is. To me, the stiff, awkward writing simply stems from not being good enough. We have enough practitioners of this "conventional" style of writing who are very good indeed at it, to know that it can also be practiced "awkwardly".

Brent Legault I was only kidding about Australian English being "poorly practiced." Australian English is one of my favorite flavors of English and I mean it no disrespect.

As far as Hong Kong English, well, of course it isn't native there. Again, a joke. I'm full of jokes. Most of what I say is a joke, according to my wife. But the English ruled Hong Kong for many, many years, and I suppose they might have had some influence on the local patois. I could be wrong. I don't usually research my jokes. Takes all the fun out of it.

Susan Musicality? Really?

Brent Legault Musicality! Really!

Chris Waters I agree to disagree with you lol. I really thought the book was good and had a lot of hidden messages involved in it. There were many we could talk about but I'm just going to name two. One thing was about the cats/katz. I think Franzen snuck this one in because I didnt even think about it until the end. So you know how the cats ate the birds and devoured them in the book? Well Richards last name was katz. Katz is also a predator he devours young women instead of birds. I don't think Franzen was trying to say cats are bad in life but I think within the context of the book cats/katz aren't good. What do you think about this notion? Another hidden message I saw within the book was about birds. I think he wanted the birds to represent freedom. The book is somewhat centered around the blue bird that migrates from North and South america. I also realized he tied the cats in with the birds for instance the cats started eating the birds. I think since this was written in the decade of the 2000's he is probably talking about the two wars started and people in other countries trying to take away our freedom. Walter does mmany things trying to make a safe place for the birds such as making bibs for the cats so they couldn't eat the birds. This could relate to the army trying to protect us from people trying to make threats to America. In the end when they move away they make their land a land trust for the birds. They want it to become a bird sanctuary. The birds have known nothing but freedom but now its not safe for them to really even be away from a sanctuary just for them. I think he was trying to tell us that we should be careful because this same situation could happen to us. Basically he us saying don't take freedom for granted.

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