Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

You probably don’t need me to recommend Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom, to you. Pretty much every media outlet, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to The Independent , has reviewed it, and to call the reviews favorable would be understating it. President Obama himself handpicked the novel for his “beach reading” this summer. And as I write this, there are already 3 holds on the library’s 2 copies. So instead, I’ll try to address a few of the reasons you might not want to read this book.

It’s 562 pages long. While I can’t refute this fact, I can tell you that it doesn’t feel that long. The characters are so absorbing that reading for long stretches at a time feels like the opposite of a chore.

Jonathan Franzen was mean to Oprah. Nine years ago, Oprah wanted to pick Franzen’s just-published novel The Corrections for her book club, and Franzen refused. Since then, however, the two seem to be getting along. Oprah recently chose Freedom as her book club’s next selection, and Franzen seems to be on board this time, judging from his participation in Oprah’s useful Reading Guide to the book.

This is one of those New York Times / NPR books that everyone loves to say they read, but isn’t actually enjoyable. Recently, author Jennifer Weiner complained that this book was getting way too much press, and  that the New York Times in particular concentrated too much on white male authors. While she may have a point, the fact is that this book is really, really good. It’s serious, yes, but I can’t remember the last time I was so engaged by a book. I actually teared up at the end, which I do not do. While Franzen may not be the most politically correct interviewee around, his writing more than makes up for it. As Benjamin Alsup writes for Esquire, “It’s not that Franzen’s prose makes other writers seem untalented; it’s that he makes them seem so lazy, so irrelevant, so lacking in the kind of chutzpah we once expected from our best authors.”

-review by Liz Galoozis, Reference Librarian/Coordinator of User Education

Check it Out

Check our catalog for Freedom or Jonathan Franzen’s other books.

Learn More

Read an excerpt from the beginning of the novel from the New York Times website.

One Response to “Freedom by Jonathan Franzen”

  1. Floyd says:

    I’m glad you included Alsup’s quote from Esquire because that hits the nail on the head–Franzen’s absolute chutzpah. I’m not quite finished with the book, but I will be in a couple of days. But, the ongoing screeds are a thing of beauty and you get the steady feeling that not only is Franzen winking at us about our obsession with popular culture, but he’s also recognizing that our obsession with him is also part of the whole shebang. If it holds up, A+.

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