After bearing no less than six acquaintances telling me I needed to read his work, and after many a discussion by the pool, in which I watched the sun go down with not-quite-drunk haziness in my eyes (opening yet another can of cold Mexican beer), my neighbor finally lent me Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom—which, because I’m a good neighbor, I felt compelled to both finish in a timely manner and have some deep thoughts about, so that the next conversation is fruitful.
“You like David Foster Wallace? Well then, you need to read Franzen,” I was told, along with “You really need to pepper some fiction into your reading list; reading everything that’s wrong with the real world can be a real downer with no end in sight.”
And so here I am: ready to write a review of Freedom. The first thing I can write about Freedom is that, yes, it does have some kind of David-Foster-Wallace-esque qualities, including a nihilism about institutions (most notably the family), a sardonic wit, and an understanding—an admittance—that being fully awake for even one single day can be a daunting task. There’s a tyranny to the pedestrian events that play out, over and over again, in one’s daily passing. In Freedom, Franzen captures that quite beautifully.
A big plus for me personally—and the reason I feel justified in posting this review on this site—is that one of the main plot points is a protagonist’s quest to curb human overpopulation, in an attempt to at least save a particular species of bird, the cerulean warbler, who appears on the cover. That such a view would normally be the antagonistic one demonstrates either Franzen’s willingness to entertain the idea or his outright support of it. Ether way, it’s just nice to read about a character mentioning the Club of Rome and have that be a good thing.
So in summary, I don’t think Freedom has made me want to read more fiction, but it was a nice little interlude: a punctuation of my normal reading of bad news that just gets worse. For that, I thank Franzen, and my neighbor.