Jonathan Franzen (in Freedom, on rival wives)

After a small festival of reading Franzen non-fiction, and non-fiction about Franzen, and speculating idly about the famous Franzen Twitter-aversitude, I dived into his most recent novel, Freedom. I read and enjoyed his The Corrections six or seven years ago, and have been waiting for “the right time” to start his newest. ‘Nuff waitin. Ain’t no ‘right time’. (Unless it’s now.) I’m a quite delicious (thank you) 164 pages in, with no real effort. Here are just a few sentences — the last knocked me out — brief character description that somehow implies an entire generational critique. Merrie Paulsen is a neighbour of protagonist Patty Berglund’s, and not in her fan club:

“Another problem…was that Patty was no great progressive and certainly no feminist (staying home with her birthday calendar, baking those goddamned birthday cookies) and seemed altogether allergic to politics. If you mentioned an election or a candidate to her, you could see her struggling and failing to be her usual cheerful self — see her becoming agitated and doing too much nodding, too much yeah-yeahing. Merrie, who was ten years older than Patty and looked every year of it, had formerly been active with the SDS in Madison and was now very active in the craze for Beaujolais nouveau…”

Jonathan Franzen, pp. 8-9 of the paperbook version of Freedom, just getting rolling. The SDS, for you youngsters and un-Americans, was the radical organization Students for a Democratic Society, which had no interest in wine or gentrification at all.



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