Ruth Schofield's Reviews > Strong Motion

Strong Motion by Jonathan Franzen
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Aug 25, 2011

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First Sentence: “Sometimes when people asked Eileen Holland if she had any brothers or sisters, she had to think for a moment.”

Another second novel. As always Franzen’s scope is immense, and his talent is clear on every page. If Palanuick is the very best writer, sentence to sentence, then Franzen is clearly the best living novelist. This story involves one Louis Holland, and a Harvard seismologist named Dr. Reneé Seitchek, and it revolves around abortion activists, big corporations, and strange sudden earthquakes appearing near Boston, which every Harvard seismologist knows is very strange indeed. It writes about the evil of corporations, but in a stronger, more mature way than Palanuick. Franzen is a historian, and he tells us exactly why the world is bad, how it came to be that way. He goes all the way back to the colonization of America, but not in a preachy or boring way. He personifies a raccoon for five pages, which is strangely one of the most poignant parts of the whole book.

The two main characters are what make the book. The medium-attractive Renee’ Seitchek and the lonely, lost Louis Holland, who fall for each other but seemingly never at the same time, and have painful rubbing sex as the earth shakes underneath them.

Franzen is a master and a genius; he builds and constructs. He creates suspense, and makes us wait for whatever’s going to happen. He makes us work for it. As with the #1 author on this list, you can imagine him standing behind a door somewhere laughing at all of his readers. He’s smarter than us, and God can the man write. This novel succeeds where The Twenty-seventh City fell a little short, and The Corrections overthrew.
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