Freedom Freedom discussion


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Have you read this book? Do we agree that it is timelessly good?

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message 1: by Sally (last edited Nov 11, 2011 06:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sally I have to grade about 75 scan-tron exams and about 25 or 50 elementary multiple-choice exams tomorrow. Fantastic.

So, the way I will deal with it is this. I will re-read one of these favorites as a consolation prize.
FunHome: A Tragicomic
Flowers for Algernon
Everything is Illuminated

The thing is, I just finished Freedom and nothing else tastes good to me anymore. It is all ruined. I just ate a giant pot of green chili and now all the book universe has to offer me is convenience station sustenance. I don't think so.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

How is the book "timelessly good"? I guess only time will tell, but I don't see anything particuarly timeless about it!


message 3: by Lori (new) - added it

Lori Crossley Honestly, I could not even finish this book. Loved his first endeavor. Even the first two-thirds of the book moved along pretty well - great characters and interactions. However, once I hit the husband driving through the hills pontificating in his own head and it went on and on, I just walked away.


message 4: by Deb (new) - rated it 5 stars

Deb It's hard to say "timeless" yet, but I loved this book with all my heart. It was one of those books that I finished sooner than I wanted to because it kept calling to me. Like Dickens, Franzen sets his characters' little travails against a sprawling backdrop of social change. The backdrop is well drawn and therefore commands our attention, but IMO it is still the characters and their relationships that are at the heart of the story.


Richard i'd say it will date, in the same was as Bonfire of the Vanities has dated, or The World According to Garp, but it'll remain a great read. It is a very NOW book so it becoming a time capsule is unavoidable.

Have you read The Corrections? it is also extremely good - though likely a bit too much Franzen in one go to try it straight away


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Sandyboy wrote: "i'd say it will date, in the same was as Bonfire of the Vanities has dated, or The World According to Garp, but it'll remain a great read. It is a very NOW book so it becoming a time capsule is una..."

I agree that it 'will date'.
I tried to start Corrections yesterday, but had to put it down before I got past the 1st page. The line about time being like a sinus getting infected did me in. Ack. Is that good writing?!


Richard The Corrections has a lot of sickness in it, in which respect Freedom was a far nicer read, but The Corrections - when it gets going - rattles along brilliantly.

The only other book of his I have read is Strong Motion which - though good - was a very confused thriller with literary aspirations


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Freedom will have to date. Franzen is obsessed with putting the novel into the now, so much so that he actively names all technologies used by the characters and even the indie rock band they go see (Bright Eyes, if I remember correctly). Whether or not this novel will stand the test of time remains to be seen.

Personally, this was a good but not great read. There's too much moral panic about the speed of technology's innovation ie Blackberrys are only described in context of interruption.

Franzen's desire for an older way of life and a simpler time is made explicit with this novel. This type of nostalgia is inherently dangerous and delusional. This nostalgia is even codified in the casts' love of "big fat Russian novels" that structurally inspired Freedom.

Corrections is a far more effective examination of the dissolution of the modern family in a pre-9/11 universe, which unfortunately puts The Corrections in the untenable position of attempting to speak for a time that no longer existed the moment it was published. However, The Corrections succeeds if only because of its structural modernity and its outrage over pharmaceuticals in America


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Sandyboy wrote: "The Corrections has a lot of sickness in it, in which respect Freedom was a far nicer read, but The Corrections - when it gets going - rattles along brilliantly.

The only other book of his I ha..."


I will attempt Corrections again, I just have to get past what I consider to be perhaps the worst line in history (the infected sinus metaphor)!


Candy Tiley I have recently finished reading this book and I really enjoyed the portraits of the dysfunction of these characters. I was going to say I don't this it is timeless but then I considered how I might relate to it in 5 or 10 years. I think at different periods of your life you would relate to these characters differently so maybe it could be timeless.


Heather Oster I thought it was awful! No one liked themselves of was faithful to each other. I read it for my book club. Out of five of us two finished it. I hope it is not timeless.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Heather wrote: "I thought it was awful! No one liked themselves of was faithful to each other. I read it for my book club. Out of five of us two finished it. I hope it is not timeless."

I'm not sure I understand your criticism. You didn't like it because the character engaged in extramarital encounters? Doesn't that seem somewhat naive, and potentially unfair criticism of the novel itself? Why do you hope it is not timeless? Because of your reaction to the novel or because of the novel's content?


Nelly It could be timelessly good although it's hard to be objective when you have lived in the time period. As for the previous comments, IMHO there are two types of readers--those who read the book critically as literature (and in a multi-faceted way) and those who only relate to the characters in a one-dimensional way e.g., the characters are immoral so the book is bad or, I don't like the characters, so the book is bad. If we used our judgement of the morals of the characters (or of their intelligence, habits, lifestyles etc.) to determine whether or not a book is good, we would miss out on reading and enjoying some of the great books of all time. I loved that this book was about dysfunctional characters and mediocrity. IMOFranzen managed to present it all in an entertaining and, in the end, a poignant way.


message 14: by Deb (new) - rated it 5 stars

Deb I've personally never minded if characters in a book are immoral or unlikeable, since their badness or unlikeability are sometimes very much the point of the book. What I loved about Freedom is how Franzen draws these admittedly flawed characters in such a vivid way that you can't help being captivated by them, if not sympathetic to them. I'm currently in the final 50 pages of The Corrections. My initial take was that Franzen's tone is more arch and judgmental in this earlier work than in Freedom, but I've warmed to the book as I've gone along.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

I mean, really, it's utterly facetious to make guesses on whether or not Freedom will stand the test of time. Statistically speaking, Freedom is only one of millions of novels from the past ten years, and there will be millions more in the next five years. It will be one drop in a sea of churning turbulent literature. There are literally hundreds of bestsellers from the past 150 years that have been totally forgotten in the wake of television's utter dominance of our collective conscious. Even bestsellers from the 50s have gone out of print and forgotten.


Nelly Deb wrote: "I've personally never minded if characters in a book are immoral or unlikeable, since their badness or unlikeability are sometimes very much the point of the book. What I loved about Freedom is ho..."

agreed!


message 17: by Alan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alan Newman I really did not like this book for many reasons. I found the happy ending ridiculous and contrived (never would have happened). I felt its ridicule of the modern "sensitive man" and lionization of the man whose penis guides his every action (it even speaks to him!) was a "cheap shot" that says nothing new about what masculinity means or is coming to mean in modern life. Cheap shots aimed at "modern woman", adolescence, altruism and activism,in fact,abound; but after I turned the last page I was left with nothing. To be timeless a book must leave me with more than a sense that I'm glad it's over.


Jules Lori wrote: "Honestly, I could not even finish this book. Loved his first endeavor. Even the first two-thirds of the book moved along pretty well - great characters and interactions. However, once I hit the ..."

I couldnt deal with the whiney conversations between the husband and wife and his dedication to the Warbler. So much of this book could have been condensed or eliminated. Couldnt even finish it!


message 19: by Lyla (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lyla Bellatas OH! I loved the way he wrote the book. The way he constructed a sentence was pure art to me. When I read The Corrections I remember reading passages to my husband and telling him to just listen to the way it is constructed. Freedom was more uplifting and not constructed as exceptionally as The Corrections. I don't believe the happy ending was contrived. She had no where else to go. She had finally found herself and realized that she was running from herself not running to anything.... or so I saw.


Lynne Lori wrote: "Honestly, I could not even finish this book. Loved his first endeavor. Even the first two-thirds of the book moved along pretty well - great characters and interactions. However, once I hit the ..."

ABSOLUTELY, I agree completely. Couldn't say it any better. Timeless? Ugh, no.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Lynne wrote: "Lori wrote: "Honestly, I could not even finish this book. Loved his first endeavor. Even the first two-thirds of the book moved along pretty well - great characters and interactions. However, on..."

Did you finish it? And award it 2 stars?


Marcia I loved this book. I believe Franzen is an excellent writer - I would often stop and re-read particular turns of phrase, wishing I had written them. His character development is also extraordinary. Like the first commenter here, when I finished the book, I was sad that it was over.
Fortunately for me, this was the first Franzen work I had read, and so I was able to pick up Corrections and start reading that afterward - also a terrific work. I wonder if it may be a cultural thing, liking Franzen or not -- I am from the Midwest and so I think I relate more to the characters than perhaps someone from another part of the country.


Nelly Marcia wrote: "I loved this book. I believe Franzen is an excellent writer - I would often stop and re-read particular turns of phrase, wishing I had written them. His character development is also extraordinar..."

I'm from the east and I love his writing. I couldn't put either book down. Isn't that saying something?


message 24: by Ginger (new) - added it

Ginger Yes I read it and no I don't believe it is a Timeless....it was drudgery to read.


Lennie I loved it, and I think it's a great portrait of a particular kind of people, living in a particular time. And I like a novelist who reflects his times, no matter when they are (Dickens, Austen, Tolstoy).

I liked the ending. I do think it was possible, but it was also the only ending you could have had without feeling utterly hopeless and devastated at the end. I was thanking Franzen for that, because otherwise I might not be able to get up and carry on with the world tomorrow.


Toula Vass I was the only person in our book discussion group to have really enjoyed this novel. It is a great contemporary read with a lot of social commentary and insight that reflects the 21st century morals and values. It might attract interest in 50 years time as a historical perspective on how some people lived their lives.


message 27: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Sally wrote: "The thing is, I just finished Freedom and nothing else tastes good to me anymore."

I feel EXACTLY the same way. Freedom, in my opinion, is a perfect novel -- it does everything I want a novel to do and it does it more beautifully, more entertainingly than just about anything else I've ever read. Love to know if you find something else that quenches your reader's thirst.

I recently read The Marriage Plot. Kind of similar to Freedom -- realistic, smart, flawed characters; organic, character-driven plot. Not a perfect novel, but one that completely consumed me for several days.


message 28: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Two other Franzen-like novels that come to mind: Then We Came to the End (very, very funny, but also touching in its own way) and Matrimony (Joshua Henkin) (a fun-to-read literary love story; very sweet).


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Don wrote: "Sally wrote: "The thing is, I just finished Freedom and nothing else tastes good to me anymore."

I feel EXACTLY the same way. Freedom, in my opinion, is a perfect novel -- it does everything I wa..."


No offense, but if you think that The Marriage Plot's plot was character-driven, you might have missed the point of the novel entirely.


Shereese Maynard Timelessly good? I'd agree, in the sense that you could transfer the feelings, timing, and setting to any point in our history. Its the same way I feel about The Way We Live Now (Trollope).


message 31: by Jaye (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jaye Viner It occurred to me that perhaps using old words to describe modern fiction isn't as useful as it would seem. I'm not sure what books are universally considered timeless...Dickens? Lord of the Rings? But I got the impression Franzen was writing very specifically for a time and place that applies to our modern biases. Perhaps people in Dickens time didn't much like reading about Orphans and thought he also was drudgery.


message 32: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don macgregor wrote: "No offense, but if you think that The Marriage Plot's plot was character-driven, you might have missed the point of the novel entirely. "

Not sure why you say that or how you're defining "character-driven."


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Don wrote: "macgregor wrote: "No offense, but if you think that The Marriage Plot's plot was character-driven, you might have missed the point of the novel entirely. "

Not sure why you say that or how you're ..."


Because the novel is a metafiction about the contrivances of plot in nineteenth century fiction. The plot moves the characters through the drama, not the characters themselves. Any "free will" on the part of the cast is an illusion. Hence, all the Barthes references. The novel is a very clever literary game. It's entertaining, but it's certainly not playing in the same sandbox as Franzen.


message 34: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don macgregor wrote: "Because the novel is a metafiction about the contrivances of plot in nineteenth century fiction. The plot moves the characters through the drama, not the characters themselves. Any "free will" on the part of the cast is an illusion. Hence, all the Barthes references. The novel is a very clever literary game. It's entertaining, but it's certainly not playing in the same sandbox as Franzen."

You haven't given any arguments for your claim. Not that you have to. You might not have the time nor desire to get into an in depth discussion about this book. I'm just saying that I remain unconvinced.

When reading the novel, I never felt that any of it was contrived. Indeed Eugendies has described his writing process for this novel as what might be called organic: he didn't know where it was headed; he just started w/ these three characters and basically followed them around, allowing them to work out their own problems, etc. Not that Eugendies' intentions necessarily proves the novel’s meaning.

This novel certainly has some elements of metafiction. Namely, Madeleine asks how can a traditional novel exist in an age of easy divorce laws (in other words, how can the marriage plot exist today)? So, yes, one of the protagonists in this novel is questioning the viability of a novel like the one’s she’s a character in. But that in no way means that the “plot [is moving] the characters through the drama, not the characters themselves.” I think you can very clearly have both: a novel that contains elements of metafiction and also a character-driven plot.


message 35: by Orna (last edited Jan 17, 2012 01:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Orna Ross "I wonder if it may be a cultural thing, liking Franzen or not -- I am from the Midwest and so I think I relate more to the characters than perhaps someone from another part of the country."

Nope! I'm from another part of the world (Ireland, living in London) and I think he's an important writer whose work speaks across continents and, yes, will speak across time too. It's the paradox of fiction, how going intricately into the lives of a few people in a particular place can illuminate universal and timeless truths. Franzen does this for me.




Tracey Slater I am halfway through this book. I have to admit, I am not enjoying the experience. In this book, Jonathan Franzen has moments of brilliance but often slides into romance novel, unoriginal tack, which comes as a shock.

Who can tell me they are convinced by Richard Katz as a character????? He comes across as a less than fully developed character bordering on caricature.

There are too many incidents of uncontrolled, overly long ranting.

Freedom has no characters in it that evoke a feeling or caring about their fate.They are all horrible.I did not have this sense when reading 'The Corrections' which had beautifully flawed characters. There was at least some pathos in that novel.

The novel is basically an extremely long grumble and seemed to have been written for the author rather than those eager to see the follow up book to 'The Corrections'.

I will finish this book, only because I hate wasting cash.


message 37: by Lora (new) - rated it 1 star

Lora Wentzel I found this book tedious and abysmal. I wish I had the experience that many of you had with this novel. I do not have to love characters to enjoy a book, or agree with their moral standards, but I usually find something to like within the pages. The best part of this novel was closing it for good. Was very glad I got the book from the library because I would have been very upset to waste money on this. Yes, it could be timeless; it may go down as one of the worst books I have ever read.


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

Lora wrote: "I found this book tedious and abysmal. I wish I had the experience that many of you had with this novel. I do not have to love characters to enjoy a book, or agree with their moral standards, but..."

Can you expand on this? I'm not looking to debate with you the merits of the book; I'm genuinely interested in the reason for your visceral reaction.


Michelle Timelessly good, no way! There were about 5 pages that merited my interest - the rest was tedious whining. Is there some reason people spend time reading Franzen? Are any of his books worthy of our time?

I just kept hoping it would get better (it never did) and I seriously only finished it because I bought it hardback for big dollars!


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

Again, I am interested in why you experienced such a reaction. Please elaborate.


Jesse my signed copy of this book will grace my shelf forever. It was a fantastic read.


Michelle MacGregor, Again why is exactly as I said -- the tedious whining of the main characters. These folks are stuck in perpetual adolescence and have never even thought to live out their lives beyond their own ego's. It made for a boring read and nary a bit of enlightenment.


message 43: by Deb (new) - rated it 2 stars

Deb I thought this book could have done with a good edit - there were many moments of good writing and interesting character and story development - but also para after para that seemed to drone on. I got nearly to the end and then didn't finish it..not for any other reason than I didn't care enough about what was happening to pick it up again.


message 44: by Ginger (new) - added it

Ginger Michelle wrote: "Timelessly good, no way! There were about 5 pages that merited my interest - the rest was tedious whining. Is there some reason people spend time reading Franzen? Are any of his books worthy of ou..."

I so agree


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

I find it fascinating that people need characters they like in order to enjoy a novel. They're just characters; they're not real people that you need to live with.


message 46: by Tema (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tema Merback Timelessly good, yikes is all I have to say! All I wanted was for the characters to die! I do not like reading about overly self-indulgent people and that is who every person in this novel was.


message 47: by Anita (new) - rated it 1 star

Anita I think this book was worse than watching paint dry!! Boring people boring lives need I say more.


message 48: by Jaye (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jaye Viner Tema wrote: "Timelessly good, yikes is all I have to say! All I wanted was for the characters to die! I do not like reading about overly self-indulgent people and that is who every person in this novel was."

Oddly enough I believe at least one of the people Franzen based one of his characters on has died. Morbid! I understand the difficulty of reading a tome full of self-indulgent people...but I think that was the point. It was a representation of what American freedom has become.


message 49: by Lora (new) - rated it 1 star

Lora Wentzel macgregor wrote: "Lora wrote: "I found this book tedious and abysmal. I wish I had the experience that many of you had with this novel. I do not have to love characters to enjoy a book, or agree with their moral s..."

Sorry, have been sick...

First, the writing did not draw me in. For example, I disliked the characters in Robert Goolrick's "A Reliable Wife", but he kept my attention, and set the scenes with his writing. The characters were not interesting. Usually self-indulgent people are interesting to watch because of their ability to self-destruct. I did not care/like the story enough to want to see what happened. I read it for a book club...otherwise I would have never finished it. I agree with Deb, the book could have used a good edit. This book just left me with a grey cloudy rainy depressing day feeling...


message 50: by Gabi (last edited Mar 29, 2012 04:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gabi Dopazo It is definitely not timelessly good. I thought it was excellent when I finished it. Then I read Don Delillo for the first time ever and realised that Franzen will never be in the same league. Now I think of Franzen like another Auster but with longer books. Lacks in poetry to be timeless. Lacks in magic, in music, in jazz… it’s not as big as a washing machine, that’s its biggest problem. It has economy, and that is never good in art. It makes too much sense, it’s been thought too much. I did love it when I read it but now I can barely remember what it was about… The guy is too young and not ugly enough to be a great writer


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Books mentioned in this topic

Freedom (other topics)
Flowers for Algernon (other topics)
Everything Is Illuminated (other topics)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (other topics)