Freedom by Jonathan Franzen…give the man a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize

Why does nothing in life work out like you think it will? Jonathan Franzen will tell you why.

Franzen’s 2010 novel, Freedom, depicts the George W. Bush years in America through the lens of a mid-Western suburban family – the Berglunds, consisting of a mom, a dad, a son and a daughter. They have no pets, but the dad, Walter, loves songbirds and wants to protect them. The allusion to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is unmistakable. “Remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird….Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That is the moral of Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book. However, Franzen shows us a human songbird, Richard Katz, who does cause considerable harm while making beautiful music, and this character gives just one glimpse into the multi-faceted mirror of Humanity’s Ambivalence.

The entire cast of American characters comes to the stage – Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Anarchists, the Ignorant, the Religious, the Educated, the “We don’t care about anything but looking good and having a lot of $Money$” contingent, and on and on. Franzen’s book is a magnum opus. Think James Joyce’s Ulysses told in clear prose, with the same profound meaning and palpable, heart-rending imagery as only a native can tell to present the sweet and the sour of his homeland. Franzen shows America as it really is, and not how we pretend it to be.

The characters are real, and therefore unlikable at times, which makes parts of the book difficult to read. Although America can redeem itself with self-sacrifice and good humor, as Franzen tells it. For instance, not since Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting has Literature provided such a grotesquely funny search-in-the-toilet scene as the brave, gifted author does in Freedom. (David Sedaris portrayed a scatological dilemma, regarding the remnants of another left in the toilet, but there was no “search” in that story from Me Talk Pretty One Day.)

Buy it! Read it! Share it! Franzen’s Freedom sings from its pages this Land of Liberty.

EXCERPT from page 503 of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (published 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York City, USA):

“A small breeze had kicked up, casting a million diamonds across the surface of Peter Lake. On the far side, a few fishermen were lazing in aluminum rowboats. Somewhere closer, a raven was croaking, another camper was chopping wood. Walter had been spending his days outdoors all summer, many of them in far more remote and unsettled places than this, but at no point had he felt farther from the things that constituted his life than he was feeling now. His children, his work, his ideas, the women he loved.”

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