Wednesday December 8th, 2010

Reading Freedom: Pages 188-562

warblerMy original plan was to write about Freedom in, say, four or five chunks, simply charting some of my responses to it as I went. That plan is out the window. Instead, I’m working on something longer about the book that I will post sometime before the holidays. In short, what happened is this: my reactions added up to a deep and honest bewilderment at the virtual unanimity of praise the book has received. On balance, I found it disappointing (and irritating) for almost exactly the same reasons I was underwhelmed by The Corrections. I’ve written before about the essay Franzen wrote for Harper’s that kick-started the best-selling phase of his career, and I’ve shared this excerpt from that essay, in which he’s talking about writing The Corrections:

The work of transparency and beauty and obliqueness that I wanted to write was getting bloated with issues. I’d already worked in contemporary pharmacology and TV and race and prison life and a dozen other vocabularies; how was I going to satirize Internet boosterism and the Dow Jones as well while leaving room for the complexities of character and locale?

Needless to say, I don’t think he solved this problem in The Corrections, and he exacerbated it in Freedom. More soon…