Trish's Reviews > Freedom

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
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's review
Sep 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, classics
Read from September 02 to 11, 2010

A big book, in every sense. The whole of America is wrapped in its pages--a close, funny, irreverent look at "the way we live now." Funny and tragic at the same time, Freedom is a comedy of manners that can enter the literary canon as a marker for America early in the 21st century, just as the novels of Henry James and Edith Wharton gave us the motivations and beliefs of Americans in the early 20th. We're not really being adult about things, the author is telling us. Even our children are older and older before they leave the security of home, if they ever do. But maybe we're all acting like spoiled children because we can. Maybe we're not doing such a bang-up job of making good citizens despite our unprecedented learning and wealth. We may have an inkling of what we ought to do, but we never seem to choose that particular option. No one political party comes off looking attractive after Franzen lays waste to their point of view, showing the absurdity of the rhetoric spewing from all sides. But the author clearly believes we have a responsibility to do the moral thing--a thing we already know but "choose" not to do. It is a human failing, but in this book, it has a particularly American flavor.

The book was frustrating and irritating to begin, for I felt much impatience with the long discussion of Patty's college years, even though I can attest to the kind of naivete Patty exhibited in high school with her neighbor boy and in college with her stalker girl. The narrative and my sense of involvement changed, however, when Richard was introduced. The scene where Patty changes her interest from Walter to Richard felt all too real. Which one of us has not experienced the pain and humiliation of a potential lover lusting after our best friend? From whichever angle--the foolish luster, the cool lustee, or the poorly-done-by loser, it is an oft-played, excrutiatingly painful memory, and when Franzen brought us there, he got my attention. From that point on, we regularly and ruefully see ourselves, our friends, our enemies, our families struggling to gain control of our lives, make decisions, and then overcome the results of poor decisions. With all the freedom we have to choose any direction, we often choose a wrong direction, the author seems to be saying. Judging from the recognition with which I read the novel, I've been there more times than I care to admit.

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Reading Progress

09/02/2010 page 60
10.0% "moving to the audio. i can't concentrate on anything."
09/09/2010 page 398
69.0% "I began to read Freedom again after Auster's book Sunset Park, and found it frustrating, irritating, endless. But at some point--in my final review I willl try to recognize that place exactly--it began to pull together & the flow and language & sense & humor all began to play in harmony."
05/13/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Do you think it's the childishness of the parents that clings to the children and contributes to making them stay at home longer?
Is it to satisfy our need, not theirs?

Trish No, not really. I just think that "children" seem to take longer and longer to grow up. And when "grown up," they don't act it. I don't believe they aren't clever enough to figure out good, fair, and just choices. They just want the party to go on forever, buying bigger, faster, prettier, and be damned that that it is busting the bank. Look at Wall Street, Main Street, our companies, even our government. No one wants to look at difficult problems, see the issues, craft solutions. Just make sure my piece is big enough.

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