Friday, November 18, 2011


Freedom, Jonathan Franzen, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2010, 562 pp

Like many other readers, I loved The Corrections. I bought the hardcover of Freedom soon after it came out in August, 2010 and I don't buy a lot of hardcover books. Somehow I did not get around to reading it until now; another reason I don't buy hardcovers. I think I was worried that he could not write another book as good as The Corrections, even if it did take him nine years. Well, he did.

I love a long book, unless of course it is one of those endless bestseller tomes from the 1950s that I have been reading lately. Franzen writes so smoothly that while he may go over the top a few too many times and he may preach a little bit, he is never boring.

Freedom is about our times, our American issues, about family and families, about love, ideals and dreams. These are the timeless themes of literature from Homer to the present day, but I consider it a feat to write a good old-fashioned narrative and make it crackle with modernity.

I won't go into any more detail as to what takes place in the story. You can go to any major review outlet from The New York Times to The Guardian and read about that in exhausting detail. Perhaps because it is a long book, the reviewers felt they must write long reviews. I find it interesting that the critics gave the book high praises but readers were quite equally divided across the spectrum of one star to five.

I will say that while Franzen digs deeply into our failings as human beings and as a society, even to the point of irritating the wound his digging causes, he did not write a depressing tale or even a cautionary one. The final chapters of Freedom are romantic in the way an old couple who have preserved their love through all the trials of a long life together are romantic.

He seems to be telling us that our insistence on freedom is both our curse and our salvation; that anyone has the potential to finally grow up and make something good out of life. How old-fashioned is that?

(Freedom is available in hardcover and paperback on the shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore. It is also available in several other formats, including e-book, by order.)

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