Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Franzen's Freedom

Jonathan Franzen's Freedom entertained me for a while by mimicking current every day speech reasonably well and tapping into the weltanschauung of college-educated, middle American, liberal white folk, whom we all know and don't always love.  And for dozens of pages I was hopeful to revisit the 1980s and early 1990s for a romp through a cultural moment I remember in general but not in many of the specifics.  But, even though Franzen gets some things right--how could he not?  Google would make it difficult to excuse not splashing on helpful color--I find myself bored.  Because I've been reading it on my ipad I don't know what page I'm soon to give up on.  I'm guessing I'm around page 100 or 150 or thereabouts.  These characters are not insightful enough, or entertainingly quirky, or sexy, or exasperating, or funny enough (Patty has moments) to stay with.  A huge part of the problem is Franzen's prose style or lack of it.  I don't know if he's not capable of writing better, doesn't care to, or thinks his readers are too incurious to mouth out aesthetically-arresting sentences, sentences that speak a voice.  This f**king novel has no voice!  The prose is neither Carver-clean nor Bellow-baroque (using as exemplars at the antipodes two of my favorite writers and prose stylists.)  Why is this novel on the bestseller list?  Or maybe that it's on the bestseller list is a reasonably good sign.  The adult thought in this novel may not be deep but at least it's adult.  We're not in a land of car chases, vampires, rabid St. Bernards, or wizards, at least.

When is Cormac McCarthy's next book due?  I want to read that.

1 comment:

suzy vitello soulé said...

Ah! I purposefully didn't read this post until I started my own FREEDOM journey, 'cause I didn't want to be "influenced" in my reading. (I also have eschewed other reviews for the same reason).

Now that I'm on page 200ish, (see latest post www.letstalkaboutwriting.com )I'm loving that you reminded me of your post, David! And, I concur with the head-scratching. Franzen, bless his heart, got himself into a bit of a pickle, I think, with scope creep. His eyes are bigger than his heart, perhaps? Although, I shouldn't completely opine on this until I'm done. I actually hope that the ensuing pages prove us wrong, David.

BTW, how far did you get before clicking off?