February 23, 2013 by Me and My Monkeys
The three key characters – Patti, Walter and Richard – all teeter on the brink of our empathy in a way that is more human than literary. They provide the pivots for a complex web of relationships and interdependencies that includes a supporting cast that is no less realised.
Franzen’s creations grow and diminish with prickling subtlety: feelings always changing, powers shifting. The resultant genogram is intertwined and unpredictable. Relationships are – as they should be – relative.
More than a collection of character sketches, Freedom feels real and random and sprawling. When you’re inside it you’re everyone at once. You can walk around and take your time. Sometimes you get frustrated, exhilarated, bored, depressed.
The enigmatic Richard Katz strikes a particular chord. Fresh from reading Hornby’s Juliet Naked, though, I couldn’t shake the more than passing resemblance of Katz to fellow made up singer/songwriter Tucker Crowe. I almost broadcast my discovery (as have others), but then realised that Franzen and Hornby were knowingly playing duelling banjos on the same ‘ageing rockstar’ brief. Should I be encouraged or outraged by this peek behind the curtain?
Freedom is a soap opera, but a good one. It’s Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, for the American Midwest. That’s a compliment of sorts.
Recommended? Yes. It’s not Tolstoy, but its very, very good.
Out of 10? 8
My monkeys suggest:
- Franzen on NPR – Fresh Air