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Freedom: A Novel

A book by Jonathan Franzen

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How many different ways can a person question the definition of freedom?

  • Oct 4, 2010
Rating:
+3

 

Freedom has the two-and-a-half-dimensional feel of reality television. I enjoy reading it, but I'm not convinced that any of the characters (especially Patty) is really so good at taking punches. I read this book as I might Greek mythology. Franzen the jovial God, getting kicks out of kicking his characters but never quite believing any of them could ever really exist. I don't believe any of them could exist either, but then again, who cares? 
It's definitely a five-star so far. Very fun to read. No flowery, pretentious prose, just smart writing. 

Half-way through: the characters are getting there, though I'm still not buying Patty, Walter and Richard seemed to come to life immediately. Perhaps Franzen shouldn't write female characters? I don't know, maybe it's just this one character. I don't remember thinking this in The Corrections, but I don't really recall. 

All in all, still going strong. There are passages in which I start thinking of other things I should be doing, or think maybe I'll take a nap, but if I read a few minutes longer, I'm pulled back in. 

Still smart, still a tad unbalanced. All of the women herein are depressed and needy. What gives? 

I'm getting distinct glimpses of Rabbit, Run; I Am Charlotte Simmons; something else... 

OK, final assessment: strong writing, a little dry in places; Franzen could use more humor to balance out the seriousness of the characters and their situations (yes, literature needs humor (yes, I'm referring to this book as literature)); some of the secondary characters seem more alive than the main characters; the story is mostly realistic; there's some awkward dialog, some beautiful insights, and they are bravely displayed. I do wonder why all the women characters are not only depressed, but on medication for depression and why none of the characters are capable of being faithful. The political discussions, namely the discussions on population control, a taboo subject, won me over. Largely, a very good book. 

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More Freedom: A Novel reviews
review by . September 09, 2010
I read "Freedom" in two days over the Labor Day weekend. I've structured this review in two parts - impressions that I jotted down while reading it, with a few paragraphs that try to provide a synthesis      Scattered observations:      *Writers probably can't ever ditch certain fundamental aspects of their style. With David Foster Wallace it's the slightly manic, ever-looping association of ideas as his brain connects his current thought …
Quick Tip by . February 09, 2011
I'm just not a Franzen fan. This is my second attempt and I can't find a toehold in his work. Am I the only one??
review by . February 10, 2011
Too many of the pivotal scenes in Freedom have a ridiculousness to them. They are just real enough that the characters seem in earnest, but sufficiently unreal that they seem to be part of a joke. The book is infused with politics, but Freedom is never clear in revealing whether Franzen is trying to parody or to portray “intellectual” lefties who bungle basic economic ideas. Nor can I tell whether he is aiming for reality or satire with his “greedy” righties. The politics …
review by . August 31, 2010
I will avoid the plot review, because so many others seem compelled to summarize, and the repetition becomes tiresome. I enjoyed this novel, and I think you will too. I gave it four stars because it is not perfect, but it is better than most current fiction. Franzen may be a "serious" writer, but he is also highly readable, with an interesting story that can be enjoyed for itself alone, absent any considerations of literary aspirations.    This is a big, rambling tale of modern …
review by . October 19, 2010
   Well remembered for his masterful readings of such titles as "Water For Elephants" and "The Second Horseman," David Ledoux gives a praiseworthy narration of FREEDOM, a story in which he's required to portray many characters. As has been said, "His voice inhabits the characters' psyches, sharing their loves, fears, and anxieties. Ledoux gives a vibrant performance, imbuing each character with a unique voice and tone." How true!     The winner of two AudioFile Earphones …
review by . September 16, 2010
Franzen's long-awaited fourth novel - it's been nine years since his National Book Award winning The Corrections - stands up to the anticipation. Mining similar territory - educated middle-class dysfunctional families - at pretty much the same length, Franzen uses his acerbic wit, unsparing insight, and deep sympathy to draw the reader into the fraught lives of his characters.    The book opens with an introductory portrait of the Berglunds, Patty and Walter; a summation of their …
About the reviewer
Jen Knox ()
Ranked #635
Author of Musical Chairs and To Begin Again.      Jen Knox earned her MFA from Bennington's Writing Seminars and works as a fiction editor at Our Stories Literary Journal and a … more
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"Freedom"
is Oprah Winfrey's 64th pick for September and places Franzen in a special category: The rare author to have more than one book in her club, the first being "The Corrections" back in 2001. 

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2010: "The awful thing about life is this:" says Octave to the Marquis in Renoir'sRules of the Game. "Everyone has his reasons." That could be a motto for novelists as well, few more so than Jonathan Franzen, who seems less concerned with creating merely likeable characters than ones who are fully alive, in all their self-justifying complexity.Freedomis his fourth novel, and, yes, his first in nine years since The Corrections. Happy to say, it's very much a match for that great book, a wrenching, funny, and forgiving portrait of a Midwestern family (from St. Paul this time, rather than the fictional St. Jude). Patty and Walter Berglund find each other early: a pretty jock, focused on the court and a little lost off it, and a stolid budding lawyer, besotted with her and almost burdened by his integrity. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other. Their stories align at times with Big Issues--among them mountaintop removal, war profiteering, and rock'n'roll--and in some ways can't be separated from them, but what you remember most are the characters, whom you grow to love the way families often love each other: not for their ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 0374158460
ISBN-13: 978-0374158460
Author: Jonathan Franzen
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Date Published: August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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