The Corrections is #43 in the 2007 edition of The 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Freedom is not on the list yet, but odds are it will be.
Freedom was only $10 on the Kobo, a steal compared to buying a hardcover and much faster than waiting for a hold at the library. But it’s really hard to blog about a book read on Kobo. I can’t flip back and find plot points and quotes. It’s been weeks since I finished and my memory is abysmal. I couldn’t remember the word “norm” tonight. And then I lost my keys. So, bear with me.
I am not nearly as impressed with Freedom as I feel I ought to be. I felt the same way about The Corrections (hardcover sitting on my bookshelf; Wee Book Inn score). Jonathan Franzen is a great writer, but I can just feel how hard he’s trying to say something smart/ironic/witty/whatever. I keep thinking, “oh, I see what you’re doing there”.
I wish the whole book was about Patty, a natural urban mama before it was cool to be one, and Richard, the hipster musician she loves and can’t have. Franzen uses their story to explore different meanings of “freedom” – from worry, from commitment, from love – and the whole thing is just drop dead romantic. He writes an album for her. Enough said!
But there’s a LONG interlude about her husband’s environmental crusade and affair with his young assistant. The environmental crusade becomes a bit of a soapbox for the childfree movement. I felt like I was reading Atlas Shrugged; I couldn’t tell if we were still on the story, or if I was now just reading someone’s political views (Franzen’s? He is childfree, but by default; it’s his wife who didn’t want kids). While this was all rather interesting, it was jarring and out of place. Or maybe, being a breeder and all, I don’t wanna think about how my precious babies will destroy the planet and just wanna read about loooove.
Weeks later, I’m struggling to remember everything important about this book, but the characters, particularly Patty, have stuck with me. I’m not as impressed as I ought to be, but I’m very impressed when a childfree guy like Jonathan Franzen creates such a real and complex character who happens to be a stay-at-home-mom.
“She had all day every day to figure out some decent and satisfying way to live, and yet all she ever seemed to get for all her choices and all her freedom was more miserable. The autobiographer is almost forced to the conclusion that she pitied herself for being so free.”