Thursday, November 10, 2011


by Jonathan Franzen

Mr. Franzen was quite the flavor-of-the-month in the literary world for a while. He received a lot of acclaim for not only this one, but also his other well-known book "The Corrections". So when my brother gave it to me for my birthday, I was quite curious to see what all the fuss was about. Now that I've read it, I'm still curious what the fuss is all about...

The three weeks it took me to read this almost 600-page novel seemed like a waste of time after reading the ending, which was so similar to the beginning that it was pretty unnecessary to read the depressing and unoriginal middle. The characters all mostly ended up exactly where they were when the book started. It was the circle of doom. It was like Sisyphus rolling the stone up the hill, only to have it fall back down again and he has to start over.

I had zero sympathy for any of the characters except maybe Walter, who seemed to be the only one with a conscience. Everyone else was a flat, uninspiring character prone to depression and drinking and running away from your problems. Sound familiar? Yep, just like hundreds of other books out there, this one's about a suburban family with problems. Affairs, addictions, depressions. Blah blah blah. Read it before and didn't like it then, either.

And the concept of freedom not being all it's cracked up to be isn't exactly a new one either. Each of the characters gets a taste of what "freedom" would be for them, and, of course, in that nihilistic misanthropic way, they hate it and yearn to go back to what they had before. What a bunch of whiners. It kind of reminds me of much of society today -- people want what they can't have, and then once they get it, they don't want it anymore.

Maybe that was Mr. Franzen's point. I don't know. But I do know that it would have been nice if he had gone about making that point more interestingly, instead of using the same old plot lines that have been used before.

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