K's Reviews > The Twenty-Seventh City

The Twenty-Seventh City by Jonathan Franzen
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's review
May 03, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction
Read in January, 2004

I was interested in this book because of the uncommon setting of St. Louis--a city I love, but one that is definitely falling apart. That decay is beautifully described by Franzen. There's no doubt that the prose in 'The Twenty-Seventh City' nearly always sparkles and only occasionally falls flat, usually when he gets too caught up in his philosophical meanderings inside the head of Martin Probst (who is quietly and slowly lovable). There are so many artful descriptions and astute retellings of every-day occurrences to propel readers. Unfortunately, the interesting premise never expands much beyond its setup in the first 50 pages. S. Jammu and her comrades are interesting, but haughty, and their reasons for taking on their twisted plot are never clarified beyond vague sketches of their activist and corrupted pasts. EVERYone in high society, apparently, enters into either physical or intellectual affairs, which often defy their characterisations, and there are so many characters that are highlighted in their dull everyday routines just to service their importance in the book's ending that it drags down the beginning in middle. And when the climax of a 500-page novel hinges on the outcome of a referendum vote... well, I think that's all that needs to be said about that.
Still, Franzen's observations on our every day lives and interactions are shocking in their familiarity, and he undeniably has a good grip on many facets of how our society and culture functions. Twenty years after the fact his comments are still relevant. 'The Twenty-Seventh City' is worth reading, but only if read quickly; labouring over it and its blunted intricacies is not worth the time.

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