Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jonathan Franzen's Freedom best american novel since Infinite Jest?


Jon Franzen's new book, The Corrections 2, will take you by surprise by being so much more than the made-up title I just gave it implies. Although the voice is virtually the exact same, the style is the exact same, and the basic plot is the exact same, Freedom shows us how much an artist can expand into the new without changing the sorts of parameters I mentioned above.

I just finished Freedom a few hours ago, and it was truly, truly beautiful. The America seems realer; Franzen's observations wiser, more mature, more accurate. He presents vividly the thoughts, ideas and philosophies of modern American minds and lives, without endorsing or attacking any of them. He lets the character speak for themselves, to the point of bad writing that are vulnerable to snark by sincerity-hounding critics or bloggers; specifically in the diaries authored by Patty, her writing is full of the whinging self-pity that her mind is cluttered with. She exhibits the melodrama and tearfulness that a writer like Franzen could most viciously be criticized for; where he's most vulnerable to attack as writing an overwrought monologue.

But Franzen, I think here more than in C, the only other book of his I read, has truly refined himself out of the work, part of Joyce's ideal for the author. His own personal views, his own experience, feelings and beliefs, are no longer visible in the novel. Instead, he seems to be giving us a pure portrait of our culture.

Aside from the compelling central characters, between whom Franzen shifts fluidly -- like in C -- for 80-100 page long chapters of development and recollection, stream of consciousness that travels into the deep past, the present, today, a few weeks ago; there are a host of pressing cultural questions and issues that lose no relevance for being printed on the page. Throughout, the writing proceeds fluidly. One is a passenger in a very well-driven automobile.

What else does this blogger have to add? Thank you, Jonathan, for this incredible book, which touched me more than most. Thank you for your hard work and the beauty of your accomplishment.

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