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Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom (2010)

by Jonathan Franzen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,828None723 (3.78)239
2010 (61) 2011 (40) 21st century (54) America (40) American (94) American fiction (28) American literature (83) contemporary fiction (47) ebook (31) environmentalism (37) family (155) fiction (680) first edition (30) infidelity (30) Kindle (55) literature (66) love (26) marriage (87) Minnesota (81) novel (137) politics (32) read (41) read in 2010 (44) read in 2011 (33) relationships (62) Roman (50) signed (29) to-read (104) unread (23) USA (73)
  1. 41
    The War Room by Bryan Malessa (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both are 500+ page modern epics whose stories originate in the Midwest but this one moves far beyond the territory and scope of Freedom. Represented and sold by same agent as Franzen's book and same UK publisher.
  2. 20
    In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (allenmichie)
  3. 11
    Matrimony by Joshua Henkin (susiesharp)
    susiesharp: They are both about the lives of people you learn to care about yet don't always like
  4. 22
    The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (BillPilgrim)
    BillPilgrim: Another modern family story. Jonathan Franzen recommended The Privileges to the New Yorker book club.
  5. 01
    May We Be forgiven by A. M. Homes (GCPLreader)
  6. 01
    The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (hairball)
    hairball: Similar tone.

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Showing 1-5 of 240 (next | show all)
A big fat book, that I read on the train to and from work over the course of a few weeks. And really not sure what to think about it. It's all about the interaction of a bunch of self absorbed people (all perhaps one, and even she is) over the course of 40 or so years. I have no connection to the life of the average American, but I doubt that what is described is normal. So perhaps its an exaggeration of what happens in USA.
The author has political messages about over-population, the environment, the terrible Republicans and their war-mongering mates, (and cats and religion) but it's done through an unconvincing and awkward story.
Having said that, there are things to think about regarding families, relationships and communication, patience and love and commitment, raising children, and even about how we should best use the talents, skills and opportunities we have been given.
In the end Freedom is not found; you have to look for that somewhere else. ( )
  robeik | Mar 27, 2014 |
3.5 stars (liked it...might be apt to discuss it, probably wont recommend it but the story will stay with me)

This book was epic to say the least....19 audio cds. I feel like I have been carrying these characters on my back for over a month of car rides now. Loved the beginning and was sucked right in....then I fell out of like/love with the characters. Found myself really struggling to find redeeming values in any of them.There were some really great passages...ad others that just dragged. Some of the descriptions were really out there but fun to read. Was really amazed at how much life fuck-upery was included and the resolution had me beaming. Thought it tied well together and if you are so inclined it is a really interesting often times sad story of a very real feeling nature. ( )
  dms02 | Feb 27, 2014 |
I'm trying to figure this one out. It was enjoyable enough to read, but I don't think it'll stick with me. (I read "The Corrections" years ago and I remember almost nothing about it.) I just don't know what it's supposed to be about. It feels like there should be A Message here, but I'm not finding it.
  amacampbell | Jan 15, 2014 |
Before I read other goodreads reviews, I was going to say that there are two ways to read this: you can read it because you want to read a good story, or you can read it because this is the latest landmark case in the series of cases following the decision of the Supreme Court of Literary Appreciation in re: Modernism v Realism (see also: Samuel Beckett's career; Pynchon's various awards and non-awards; the MFA industry). Apparently, though, you can also read it because you want to know if Franzen is or is not a doucebag. I never thought he was, since I, too, would be weirded out if I wrote a novel that ended up on Oprah's list before Oprah's list expanded to include things like Faulkner and Tolstoy, and would behave in an odd manner in order to retain my usually bullet-proof belief that I am not a sell-out.

Anyway, I'm exactly the sort of person who follows the SCofLA's decisions, but let it be said immediately that Franzen creates wonderful characters without tricking you into 'loving' them; any sympathy you feel for them will always be the kind of sympathy you feel for real people, not the kind of sympathy you feel for too perfect to be true literary characters. It's impressive. It's also nice to read a novel that isn't all about one person's travails; I hope Literary Authors take his example to heart and reject the first-person whinge as novelistic form.

As to the literary historical materials, however. This book is, you may know, realism's great hope. Someone in n 1 declared that in this battle 'realism always wins.' On the other hand, Gabriel Josipovici wrote a whole book about how anti-modernist literature is making us awful people. So there's definitely room for debate here. But really, why debate *this* book? Because its characters read Tolstoy and listen to twentieth century avant-garde music (keeping in mind that Franzen is 58 and so the name-dropping won't be terribly impressive to post-MP3 generation music nerds), are we meant to take this more seriously than Bridget Jones? After all, that referenced Jane Austen in a pretty heavy handed way. The whole thing seemed odd to me to begin with (why not debate Mantel, or Robinson?), and it only seemed sillier as I read through the book.

As I said, it's a great feat of story-telling. But the story-telling is deeply personal and domestic. The characters care about sex, and you will care about whom they sex at. But just because they all talk about how they want their freedom and accuse each other of wanting freedom too much and find it ironic that they, too, want their freedom, that doesn't make it a great social novel. Dickens, for instance, wrote social novels, not domestic ones. There's love in his stories, but the books are *about* the world that surrounds that love. Here, the world seems kind of tacked on. The painting of this book would exquisitely render two people copulating in ecstasy, and then have a newspaper clipping about the middle east 'peace process' (really need to call it something else, policy wonks, something a bit more optimistic, you know?) sticky-taped to the lower right hand corner of the frame.

Now, who cares, right? Well, Franzen seems to care. He called the freaking thing Freedom, for goodness's sake, and frequently compares his characters to characters from War & Peace and generally stuffs in every conceivable issue of importance for the 2000's reader. But it doesn't work. I love that social stuff, LOVE IT. But those were the passages I read less attentively, with one major exception: Richard Katz's wickedly funny, satirical rant about the music industry, which broadens out to become a satire of any human activity whose humans actors take themselves to be doing something subversive. Y'know, like, writing books and goodreads reviews.

My tremendous enjoyment of that passage coupled with the heartburn it gave me convinced me that Franzen shouldn't have tried to write the 21st century's first great realist novel of Dickensian social scope and Tolstoyan historical power. This novel could have been better, quite frankly, if he'd aimed a little further down the genre hierarchy scale. This would have made a beautiful, moving novel of domesticity, with some glances at Eternal Verities of Human Nature, a la Elizabeth Bowen. If it was, I'd be complaining about authors who think that they alone have access to these Eternal Verities, but it wouldn't have turned to sludge every time the words 'Iraq' or 'Oil' or 'Environment' came up.
Alternatively, and, from my perspective, preferably, he could have written a novel more like Katz's rant. If you're going to call a book Freedom, I think you're morally obligated to make it a satire. Maybe Franzen wanted to avoid irony? But satire is painfully un-ironic, in the important sense that it requires the author to bare her soul entirely, to strip away all the possible excuses she can make up for the world: the satirist has nothing to fall back on. 'Freedom' is, obviously, a plea for us to move past the misguided (but prevalent) idea that writers have nothing to say about or to the world, and that they should just focus on revealing how fiction is duplicitous with capital blah blah blah... But the right case to bring before this court is not realism vs post-modernism. Instead of Bleak House, Franzen should've gone a bit further back in literary history, maybe to Fielding (Henry, that is) or, best of all, to Swift. We don't so much need a new Dorritt; we do need a new Gulliver. That wouldn't be a best-seller, but it would be better. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Jonathan Franzen is a good writer. In this novel, he explores the theme of freedom: how we crave and/or fear it, what it means to us, and how we use and abuse it. The theme is skillfully woven into the story and not preached to the reader.

This is also the story of an American family at a time when America generally was examining its values and its place in the world. Similarly, the characters are reaching middle age or adulthood and trying to find their comfort zones. ( )
  LynnB | Dec 18, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 240 (next | show all)
One keeps waiting for something that will make these flat characters develop in some way, and finally the Nice Man is struck by a great blow of fate. But rather than write his way through it, Franzen suspends things just before the moment of impact, then resumes Walter’s story six years later—updating us with the glib aside that the event in question “had effectively ended his life.” A writer’s got to know his limitations, but this stratagem is clumsy enough to make one want to laugh for the first time in the book. It certainly beats the part where a wedding ring is retrieved from a bowl of feces.
added by danielx | editAtlantic, BR Myers (May 13, 2012)
Franzen is an amateur ethnographer impersonating a fiction writer. His novel is overstuffed with finger-puppet characters and the clutter of contemporary life: there's no reason to know that someone is wearing "Chinese-made sneakers" or that someone else watches Pirates of the Caribbean during a transatlantic flight. Freedom is crammed as well with rants passed off as dialogue and dialogue that either serves no narrative purpose or reeks of research done in the lifestyle pages of the New York Times.
added by lorax | editThe Nation, John Palatella (Nov 15, 2010)
The freedom of Freedom isn't freedom of choice, it's freedom from it; not an expansion but a narrowing. The book's movement is from the abyss of the abstract to the surety of the concrete, from the potential to the actual. You get there not by reinventing yourself in the American vein, by hatching a plan or heading west or donning a disguise. You do it by going home again, by seeing, as if for the first time, what you've already done, and claiming it as your own.
added by zhejw | editHarper's, Christine Smallwood (pay site) (Nov 1, 2010)
I didn't buy one of the characters, I didn't buy one of the plot twists, I found the stuff about a Halliburton-esque company rather convoluted and I was completely absorbed by the rest. Without question, Freedom is a book that grabs hold of you. When I was in the middle, I thought of its characters even while I wasn't reading about them, and when I was reading it, I read several lines aloud to my husband.
Franzen's daring has been to take on soap operas and HBO mini-series, demonstrating that if you want modern emotional dramas, the novel can provide them today as effectively as it did in the 19th century. But, he also offers something no HBO series can – the solitude and moral introspection of the novel, the beauty of prose, the imaginative love affair you form with characters you alone see in the way you see them. Freedom is the novel of the year, and the century.
added by Widsith | editThe Guardian, Jonathan Jones (Aug 23, 2010)

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Franzen, Jonathanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abarbanell, BettinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schönfeld, EikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Go together, you precious winners all; your exultation partake to everyone. I, an old turtle, will wing me to some withered bough, and there, my mate, that's never to be found again, lament till I am lost.
The Winter's Tale ----
To Susan Golomb & Jonathan Galassi
First words
The news about Walter Berglund wasn't picked up locally -- he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now -- but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times.
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Book description
Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul - the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbour who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter - environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, family man - she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz - outré rocker and Walter's old college friend and rival - still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to poor Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbour," an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of too much liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's intensely realized characters, as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time. [Amazon.co.uk]
Haiku summary
What does Freedom mean?
Free to use, free to preserve
Free to love, to live

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The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged.… (more)

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