For good reason, this book has been left off a majority of Year End lists. Franzen spent nine years crafting a novel that is essentially his previous novel. Like The Corrections, Freedom dives headfirst into the shallow end of suburban disenfranchisement, resignation, examines modern life with hairy-eyed exactitude and candor. Along for the ride are the Franzen hallmarks of humans interacting with fecal matter, exhaustive leftist discourse, shallow moralizing, ramshackle and illogical plot devices that fail to critique the facilely criticized institutions of the American war machine, capitalist greed, and misinformation. There are characters in this book that are simply deplorable. There are characters in this book so fully realized that they tread the threshold of caricature. But each of them undeniably exist. I read the book in five days.
“There’s a hazardous sadness to the first sounds of someone else’s work in the morning; it’s as if stillness experiences pain in being broken.”
“Underneath the table, in his boxers, his half-mast boner was pointing at her like a Jaguar’s hood ornament.”
“Each new thing he encountered in life impelled him in a direction that fully convinced him of its rightness, but then the next new thing loomed up and impelled him in the opposite direction, which also felt right. There was no controlling narrative.”
“They gathered not in anger but in celebration of their having found, as a generation, a gentler and more respectful way of being. A way, not incidentally, more in harmony with consuming. And so said to him: Die.”
“It would have been useful to be able to add that there was nothing between him and his assistant, but, in fact, his hands and face and nose were so impregnated with the smell of her vagina that it persisted faintly even after showering.”
4. New & Collected Stories
Tobias Wolff Discovered George Saunders. His short stories are simultaneously impeccable examples of craft and inspired reflections on the American experience, too! And mustache-wise, he is shoulders above the competition.