First of all, I'm a bit disappointed to learn that the cerulean warbler is an actual bird. But then, according to Anis Shivani—the same guy who wrote that compelling article about getting gentrified out of Houston's Upper Kirby District—Jonathan Franzen belongs to the realist school of novelists, so making up a species (like the pine weasel in Twin Peaks) as a central plot device just wouldn't do.
I did enjoy reading Freedom, my first encounter with a novelist about whom I have heard so many raves. It is a well-woven story, featuring moments of sublime beauty, remarkable turns of phrase, and OMG-did-I-really-just-laugh-at-that humor. Its principal characters are mostly intolerable upper-middle-class white folks, but the story through which they move overcomes that handicap, at least for a fan of character-driven fiction.
I also found quite a bit to kvetch about, although not nearly as much as Shivani did.
Note that I did not approach the Franzen phenomenon via his acclaimed 2001 work The Corrections. That title was not on the shelves at Book Barn in December for the princely sum of one dollar. But I will likely dip my literary big toe into it some day.
Here are the impressions of Freedom that I posted in the form of a three-star-out-of-five "review" on Goodreads:
1. Yes, there's some chillingly terrific writing, but most of the breath-taking turns of phrase are concentrated in the first half. Franzen spends the second half in the unpleasant business of dragging his characters through various emotional torments, in order to bring them to some kind of redemption, and there's little space left for fancy verbiage.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
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