Friday, September 17, 2010

Erin O'Connor on Jonathan Franzen

From her blog, Critical Mass:
Granted I have not finished the novel. And perhaps the tenderness and compassion will appear magically in the last few pages and will wash over me with such power that it will mitigate the pinched and cramped effects of the first 450 pages. But I’m having my doubts. Freedom is not a compassionate or tender novel. It’s angry, bitter, and deeply troubled. It’s written from a narrative perspective that struggles to see its central characters through anything other than a sour, sardonic lens. And, in titling the novel Freedom, it elevates this struggle–or tries to elevate it–to the level of philosophical meditation. The result is a jaundiced and dysphoric work that–while compulsively readable in the manner of The Corrections–is hardly a tender or compassionate account of “the many ironies of life under late capitalism.” Rather, it reads like a claustrophobic tautology: a blanket indictment of middle-class Americanness that sees Americanness as an ugly inevitable distortion of humanity caused by the irredeemably flawed premises of America itself.