Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Goodbye TV and Computer, Hello Freedom!

Oh glorious August 31! This is the day Jonathan Franzen's long-awaited novel, Freedom, hits the bookshelves. I already have in my greedy little hands a first edition copy.

Franzen penned The Corrections back in 2001, and it instantly leapt into my top 5 books of all-time. (If you care to see what other books are at the top of my list, access my profile.

9 long years later and Franzen has released Freedom to spectacular reviews. Here's just a sample:

"Franzen isn't the richest or most famous living American novelist, but you could argue — I would argue — that he is the most ambitious and also one of the best. His third book, The Corrections, published in 2001, was the literary phenomenon of the decade. His fourth novel, Freedom, will arrive at the end of August. Like The Corrections, it's the story of an American family, told with extraordinary power and richness." (Lev Grossman, Time)

“Writing in prose that is at once visceral and lapidary, Mr. Franzen shows us how his characters strive to navigate a world of technological gadgetry and ever-shifting mores, how they struggle to balance the equation between their expectations of life and dull reality, their political ideals and mercenary personal urges. He proves himself as adept at adolescent comedy (what happens to Joey after he accidentally swallows his wedding ring right before a vacation with his dream girl) as he is at grown-up tragedy (what happens to Walter’s assistant and new beloved when she sets off alone on a trip to West Virginia coal country); as skilled at holding a mirror to the world his people inhabit day by dreary day as he is at limning their messy inner lives.” [Michiko Kakutani, New York Times]

“However similar Franzen’s novels might look from a distance, there’s always one key distinction: They’re populated by different people. Few modern novelists rival Franzen in that primal skill of creating life, of tricking us into believing that a text-generated set of neural patterns, a purely abstract mind-event, is in fact a tangible human being that we can love, pity, hate, admire, and possibly even run into someday at the grocery store. His characters are so densely rendered—their mental lives sketched right down to the smallest cognitive micrograins—that they manage to bust through the art-reality threshold: They hit us in the same place that our friends and neighbors and classmates and lovers do.” [Sam Anderson, New York]

"Also odd is the depth of Franzens brilliance. There isnt a page that goes by without insights you can mull over and sentences you can admire…But, forgive me, despite the brilliance, or maybe even because of it, I found the novel quite unappealing, maybe because every line, every insight, seems covered with a light film of disdain. Franzen seems never to have met a normal, decent, struggling human being whom he didn’t want to make us feel ever so slightly superior to. His book just has too much brightness and not enough color." [Alan Cheuse, NPR)

“While his contemporaries content themselves with small books about nothing much or big books about comics, Franzen delivers the massive, old-school jams. It's not that Franzen's prose makes other writers seem untalented; it's that he makes them seem so lazy, so irrelevant, so lacking in the kind of chutzpah we once expected from our best authors. Freedom doesn't name check War and Peace for nothing. It's making a claim for shelf space among the kind of books that the big dogs used to write. The kind they called important. The kind they called greats.” [Benjamin Alsup, Esquire]

For the next week, every moment I can steal will be spent reading Freedom.

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