Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Franzen's Freedom

Over here, we've been reading Jonathan Franzen's latest, Freedom. It's the first novel Big A's read before me (ever). I gave it to him over the new year and have been patiently waiting (because it's the polite thing to do) for him to finish it, because it was, after all, his present. And already, given that it was Jonathan Franzen, there were not a few moments of marital teasing about the self-servingness of this present. Big A even asked if I got him the book merely because there was a bird on the cover, because I do like things with birds on them (kinda like this), although I hadn't (honestly!) noticed this particular one.

It was hard reading the book after Big A. For one thing, I had to stop myself from asking him about the end all the time (and haven't mostly because he works a bunch of nights this week). And also (and this is so embarrassing), I kept getting jealous of all the people in the book. I kept wondering if he found them interesting. Since we met, it's fair to say Big A hasn't spent this much time with people who aren't me, learning really emotional and intimate details about them. In a way, I'm glad he tends to non-fiction for the most part.

And there were all sorts of people who had names of people we knew; this included the names of my step-mom-in-law and Baby A's middle name. And then everyone in the book turned out to be unlikeable. And everything kept getting solved by death. Even the person with Baby A's middle name wiped out in a car accident. And the women were all clingy and weirdly submissive. They really had to be good little Griseldas about waiting, suffering, and repenting.

But Franzen does write efficiently, photographically, in that choosy New Yorker-ish time-and-space specific way. And wonderful too, the flash of recognition coming from a sprawl of words stretching self-indulgently and contemporaneously all the way into Obama-America.

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