Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews

Oct 24, 2010

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen (UPDATED!)

"Freedom" is currently rocking a three-star average rating on Amazon.   This is an indication that people are fools.  

I read the first chapter of “Freedom” a while before I seriously committed to the book.  This is because I took an embarrassing hiatus to read Jeff Pearlman’s "The Bad Guys Won!  A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo-chasing and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, The Kid, and the Rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team Ever to Put On a New York Uniform - - And Maybe The Best."

I in no way regret that decision; Pearlman’s book is totally awesome and I recommend it to everyone who likes books about baseball, which should be all of you.  And I finished it on the plane to New York, celebrated by going to a game at the new Citi Field with some dear friends, ate myself almost-sick at Shake Shack, and then dutifully re-cracked “Freedom” for my flight home.

I read it in a sitting, not counting the drive to my home from the airport, and fell into a terrible existential funk that lasted about four hours (I am blessed with very brief bouts of ennui.)

It was the usual sort of “I have just read the first great novel of X Century” angst, mostly composed of “why am I not the sort of person who could have written this book?” and a healthy dose of sorrow that, you know, I won’t get to know anything else about characters who have become important to me.   I had a brief digression on the idea that the unpopular name “Patty” has been given to the protagonists of two of my very favourite books:  “Freedom,” obviously, and “Saul and Patty,” until fact-checking revealed that the latter is actually “Patsy.”   So you can ignore that.

I don’t want to hop on the “screw you, Jodi Picoult, you untalented hack, why on earth would the New York Times bother to review your trite, awful books?” bandwagon, partially because Franzen himself has been so gracious about it (which is easy to do when you have written such a Great Book), but I truly wish that her point had been made by a good female writer.   There are actually quite a few of them, really.   I’m not going to get into a list situation, but I would recommend Kate Atkinson and Lionel Shriver, just off the top of my head. 

But before you do that, you should really acquire and read “Freedom,” which is almost tediously excellent, and certainly better than whatever winds up winning the National Book Award.

Update:

Further reflections here.