Monday, December 6, 2010

FREEDOM is Overrated

The book Freedom that is. The one by Jonathan Franzen that had tremendous media coverage this fall. Saying it was over-promoted rather than overrated is probably more accurate. The usual suspects like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Oprah promoted Freedom, but also GQ, Esquire, four periodicals in the UK and newspapers in Kansas City, Portland, Minneapolis and Cleveland. And this is far from an exhaustive list.

The content of the reviews varied but many used the term "Great American Novel." That's a tough phrase to ignore. Freedom went on my reading list.

I'm two-thirds done with the novel and I'm feeling uncomfortable with it. Not with the style or the prose, but the characters and the social commentary. I don't even care how it ends. Though reviewers have hinted at a surprise ending. I just want to discuss it with fellow readers. Why did this book get so much attention? Will it be read in future generations? Are comparisons to Tolstoy and David Foster Wallace accurate? And what about those sex scenes?

Read it and let's talk. By the way, Freedom was shortlisted for the tongue-in-cheek "Bad Sex in Literature" award distributed by Britain's Literary Review magazine. This year's prize went to Alastair Campbell for his novel Maya. Read more on BBC News.

For a good selection of reviews - go to Bookmarks Magazine


Laura A. said...

I haven't read Freedom, so I can't comment on it, but I do sometimes wish that some of the space devoted to Franzen and other high-profile authors in newspapers and magazines could instead go to less well-known but deserving authors. (That said, I can also understand why publications feel obligated to review the "big" books.)

Jeanne said...

While I cannot comment on Freedom, I can say that Franzen's novel, The Corrections, was also overrated. I'll never get back all of the time I spent with that book. Just reading about your reaction to his latest is enough for me--I'll take a pass on Freedom, no matter what Oprah says!

Linda K. said...

I haven't read "Freedom" and agree with Jeanne about "The Corrections." In fact I generally have a personal policy that anything recommended by Oprah is something I can safely skip. (I usually refer to Oprah choices as "misery" books.)

Cathy F. said...

Thanks for the comments. Let's keep the conversation going! I think the book is worth reading. Its commentary on our society makes me feel uneasy and I don't want to be friends with any of the characters but it is thought provoking.

Linda K. said...

My main problem with Franzen's book "The Corrections" was the characters - they were mean and petty and not anyone I wanted to know, much less have as friends. It also had a theme regarding our society that made me uneasy. Maybe I should give "Freedom" a skim. It sounds like the author may have written the same book twice!? If anyone who has read "The Corrections actually reads "Freedom," let me know how they compare.

theoncominghope said...

Ha I started off with a few comments, which then transformed into a full blown blog post! So well done inspiring me.

I had much of the discomfort you had, and much more: http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/01/jonathan-franzen-freedom.html

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