Jonathan Franzen's much-awaited novel Freedom hits bookstores tomorrow morning.
I'm about to start reading this book, and will be reviewing it for another publication. I've also been enjoying (for whatever humor value it can provide) a nascent Franzen backlash including a gender-minded protest by Jennifer Weiner and a Twitter parody that pokes fun at the author's perceived arrogance.
Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, “Freedom,” like his previous one, “The Corrections,” is a masterpiece of American fiction.
I appreciated The Corrections, mostly for its moving portrait of a patriarch brought down by senility, but I wouldn't quite call the book a masterpiece. It just didn't bowl me over, though Oprah Winfrey liked it more. At his best, I think of Jonathan Franzen as a sharp writer of psychological family dramas, in the proud tradition of John Updike and John O'Hara. He's not quite as glorious as Updike, not quite as wicked as O'Hara, but bold and dishy in a way that recalls both. I read an excerpt from Freedom recently published in The New Yorker, disguised as a short story and titled Good Neighbors. I loved it, was immediately intrigued by the characters and the setup, am very eager to read more. It's fun, incisive, compelling. That doesn't mean the novel is going to change my life, or cure America of its moral ills.
... there’s no denying that as a writer Franzen cultivates a slyly superior tone. He assumes the persona of somebody who hardly knows you but still wants to get a little too close into your personal space, asking, “You know what your damn problem is?”
Meanwhile, we all know what the literary fiction industry's damn problem is. There aren't many wildly successful novelists in this space, and for that reason we can be glad that Freedom is making big waves in 2010. A masterpiece? Let's give it ten years, and see if anyone's still talking about Freedom in 2020.