Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I missed Franzen's first novel Corrections, the one that caused such a brouhaha when he declined to have Oprah's seal of approval on his book cover. At least, I haven't read it yet. I feel sure it's sitting somewhere on my bookshelf. I may have started the first few pages then abandoned it for the time. This new novel Freedom is just as weighty a volume, and it kept me interested throughout, but I just didn't like the characters very much. Since the point-of-view moves between third person perspectives with focus on the wife Patty Berglund in her autobiography (written in a distancing third person) to accounts of her husband Walter, his college roommate and on-again-off-again best friend rocker Richard Katz, and their son Joey, who moves in with the neighbors during high school, sharing a room with their teenage daughter Connie.
The novel is unquestionably political, but I find that all political views are skewered and satirized. Walter dirties his hands with political money to build a bird preserve in order to promote his pet cause, population explosion. Their son makes and forfeits a fortune, while still in college, obtaining shoddy parts for war vehicles. Patty teeters on the brink of sanity at times, making damaging decisions then opening herself up for attack.
Even as I found myself disliking the characters, I couldn't look away. I suspect they and their story will stick with me longer than other narratives that I found less abrasive. I may find myself skimming the shelves, looking for Corrections aftera ll.