Book Buzz
August 31, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

"Freedom" by Jonthan Franzen: is one of the most hyped, most anticipated literary novel in years and it goes on sale today. Jonathan Franzen's new book Freedom is being hailed as "The Tolstoy of the Internet Era" [slate]. "The novel of the century" [guardian]. "a novel that turns out to be both a compelling biography of a dysfunctional family and an indelible portrait of our times." [nytimes] "Jonathan Franzen: one of America's greatest living novelists?" [telegraph] Jonathan Franzen is best known for his award winning book The Corrections [nytimes]. Maybe you're wondering why his name is familiar, [Oprah Book Club sticker incident].
posted by Fizz (166 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think we can pretty much predict how this thread is gonna go.
posted by spicynuts at 7:57 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


FranzenBlue?
posted by Fizz at 7:59 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, like this:

MeFite 1: FRANZEN SUCKS BALLS HE'S A FRAUD

MeFite 2: YOU SUCK BALLS FRANZEN IS GOD

MeFite 3: THERE HASN"T BEEN A REAL NOVEL SINCE 19xx

MeFite 4: LITERATURE IS DEAD AND THIS IS JUST HYPE MACHINE

MeFite 5: NOBODY READ ANYMORE WE ARE DOOMED
posted by spicynuts at 8:03 AM on August 31, 2010 [32 favorites]


"The Tolstoy of the Internet Era"? Groan.
posted by oddman at 8:03 AM on August 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


You know what the thing about The Corrections is? There's just nothing wrong with it. It was a perfectly executed book. Perfect execution -- especially at great length -- is an underrated literary virtue. (See also: Alice Munro, William Trevor)
posted by escabeche at 8:04 AM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


If he's the Tolstoy of the Internet era does that mean the entire novel is written in lolspeak?
posted by dortmunder at 8:05 AM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


I saw a copy of it on my friend's table. Considering she almost exclusively reads either non-fiction/policy or hard-as-diamond SF, I'm considering borrowing it from her. I tend have a negative opinion of authors everyone jizzes themselves stupid over, but ever since I read a Michael Chabon book, I've realized that, hey, maybe there's a reason for all that hype. Hopefully it'll pan out; god knows Fitzgerald, Faulkner, et. al. got a lot of bullshit over their hype too.
posted by griphus at 8:05 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think I will read the book. It is supposed to be good.

I am not sure what other comment one can make on a thread for a book which came out today. (Unless you have an advanced copy, in which case feel free to write "first"!)
posted by blahblahblah at 8:05 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


And distributed in tweet form.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:05 AM on August 31, 2010


Jonathan Franzen has written a novel about a dysfunctional family, you say.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:06 AM on August 31, 2010 [23 favorites]


I agree this is a 'portrait of our times' - in that it shows just how easily so called literary critics swallow hook, line and sinker PR releases fed to them by whichever PR company the publisher has employed here. One has to wonder how many of these critics have read cover to cover the circulated ARCs of Freedom and how many have taken a short cut to come up with such superfluous hyperbole.
posted by numberstation at 8:10 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Something ReeMonster can get behind.. this book is going to be great!
posted by ReeMonster at 8:12 AM on August 31, 2010


And of course, there is the Franzenfreude.
posted by Megami at 8:13 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I am very smart and this is my serious literature."
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:18 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


And seriously... "novel of the century"? All 10 years of it?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:18 AM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I saw someone reading a copy of this on the subway last week. I had heard about the book but figured it was already released. In retrospect, I wish I had known how impressed I should have been.
posted by telegraph at 8:21 AM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


As a bookseller, all the hype has been amusing, but the Franzenfreude has been HILARIOUS. It's like watching a bunch of high schoolers get into a slap fight.

Me? I won't read it. I have too much else to read, and I would rather read and recommend those things everyone isn't freaking out about. This one will sell itself.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:22 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


And seriously... "novel of the century"? All 10 years of it?

Yep, I had a lovely rant about this with some of my literary-minded friends about this very claim.
posted by Fizz at 8:22 AM on August 31, 2010


No, like this:

MeFite 1: FRANZEN SUCKS BALLS HE'S A FRAUD

MeFite 2: YOU SUCK BALLS FRANZEN IS GOD

MeFite 3: THERE HASN"T BEEN A REAL NOVEL SINCE 19xx

MeFite 4: LITERATURE IS DEAD AND THIS IS JUST HYPE MACHINE

MeFite 5: NOBODY READ ANYMORE WE ARE DOOMED


You forgot me, MeFite 0. "Who?"
posted by DU at 8:23 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I just wish the book information on Amazon.com hadn't spoiled, like, the entire damn narrative arc. Aside from that stupid Amazon page, I'm refusing to read all reviews until I've read the novel. It's just better that way. For my sanity.
posted by naju at 8:23 AM on August 31, 2010


You know what the thing about The Corrections is? There's just nothing wrong with it. It was a perfectly executed book. Perfect execution -- especially at great length -- is an underrated literary virtue. (See also: Alice Munro, William Trevor)

"Underrated"? Come again? Franzen's the most hyped novelist of the last ten years and I think you're now legally bound to append the phrase "our greatest living short story writer" to any mention of Munro. And actually what I often find when I take a stab at some celebrated contemporary masterwork is that there's a kind of empty, calculated precision to it, a kind of overly polished craftsmanship that I think is what you're describing. In any case, in the critical hierarachy of recent years, the well-executed seems to trump the actually original.

Franzen's actually a case in point for this, and I'm generally open to hearing stirring defenses of his work. I adore many of the writers he's lumped in with - Chabon, Lethem, and especially Wallace - but the three times I've tried to get into The Corrections I found it kind of cold and precise and full of overwritten self-congratulatory phrasing. (The Slate review above quotes such a passage from Freedom: "a sunny carrier of sociocultural pollen, an affable bee.") It's like Wallace without the giddy inventive Pynchon wordplay and overlayered photographic detail. Wallace might've used that sociocultural pollen bit, but only en route to greater heights, and never paired with a sort of backpatting reiteration of the same metaphor.

In all seriousness, I intended to dig it. The Corrections, I mean. And really just couldn't.

I'd be willing to try again with The Corrections if I've missed something. (I always tell would-be readers of Infinite Jest that it doesn't really hit full stride till p. 150 or so but when it does it's such a stunning winged technicolour thoroughbred you'll lose your breath and not find it again till the Endnotes. Is The Corrections like that? Should I try Freedom instead? Or is Franzen just the Wallace for readers who've always found the Pynchon-Delillo-Wallace end of the pool a little too murky and messy and churning, who just want tidy prewar realism back?
posted by gompa at 8:24 AM on August 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


I just wish the book information on Amazon.com hadn't spoiled, like, the entire damn narrative arc. Aside from that stupid Amazon page, I'm refusing to read all reviews until I've read the novel. It's just better that way. For my sanity.

This has been a trend I've noticed with not just literature but films. These days if I hear about book or a film that remotely sounds interesting. It's best to just avoid the trailer or the inside flap. I was reading the flap for Dan Simmons's Carrion Comfort and half way through I was excited, so I just stopped reading because I didn't want to spoil any other information.
posted by Fizz at 8:25 AM on August 31, 2010


My sister works for a book distribution company, and it's hilarious how publisher-driven the hype for new books is. When the last Harry Potter had just been released, she told me, "You'll be hearing about Stephanie Meyer next..."

You want to guess who she was talking about three or four month ago?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:26 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I tend have a negative opinion of authors everyone jizzes themselves stupid over, but ever since I read a Michael Chabon book, I've realized that, hey, maybe there's a reason for all that hypeI'm right.

Maybe it was the audiobook narrator but mainly he came across as...boring. Perhaps I'm less interested in Michael Chabon than Michael Chabon is.
posted by DU at 8:27 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness, I intended to dig it. The Corrections, I mean. And really just couldn't.

Can I get an 'AMEN!" brother? I could only make my way half way through The Corrections because I found it was "trying too hard". He's a remarkable word-smith but the idea and the way he executes them seems overly precise.
posted by Fizz at 8:27 AM on August 31, 2010


Metafilter: NOBODY READ ANYMORE WE ARE DOOMED
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:28 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know what the thing about The Corrections is? There's just nothing wrong with it.

This is the disturbing thing about Franzen. His essays in particular are impeccably written but his fundamental complacency and nastiness always peek out from under. He made me reconsider the idea that good, clear writing is good, clear thought.
posted by otio at 8:30 AM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


> MeFite 3: THERE HASN"T BEEN A REAL NOVEL SINCE 19xx

A buddy of mine had a very pretentious girlfriend in university who liked to claim there hadn't been *any* good books written since World War Two. Ah, youth...
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:33 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


All that criticism can do is tell us if a book is complete shite (formulaic genre fiction, built at the James Patterson Novel-factory, etc.) or if it has potential. It might provide insight, but it doesn't provide perspective. Perspective requires time. Once the book percolates through the culture for 20-40 years it'll fall into obscurity or remain relevant. It's way too early to declare Franzen to have written a classic book. Any contemporary cultural relevance may leave it reading as a relic once the culture moves on.
posted by MasonDixon at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jonathan Franzen is like Modern Family. Something critics gush over and I find rather plebeian. Sure, what I've read is good, but I've read a lot of good conventional books (Lahiri's Unaccostmed Earth comes to mind).

Anyway given the number of people buying it this morning at the bookstore, this will be the book that smart people who aren't regular readers read, and so it will become a cultural phenomena. He's like a normal person Bret Easton Ellis.
posted by geoff. at 8:36 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


*THIS SPACE RESERVED FOR FRANZEN THREADSHITTING*

See you in a month when I'm done with the book.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:37 AM on August 31, 2010


but the three times I've tried to get into The Corrections I found it kind of cold and precise and full of overwritten self-congratulatory phrasing.

This has always been my problem with Franzen as well. He has perfect technique, but no style.
posted by atrazine at 8:39 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


A: The book industry makes me really, really sad.
B: Jonathan Franzen. I've never thought about him, or really heard about him. Maybe worth a read.
C: Iain Banks is my favorite, and there's no danger of the Twilight fans stealing that from us literary snobs right away!
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:40 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I will read it, though probably won't buy the hardcover (same with Corrections).

I must say I LOVED The Twenty-Seventh City, then read Strong Motion and barely finished it. The Corrections was somewhere in between.

So I'm not super excited or anything, but sure, I'll read it. Maybe from the library.

He's a remarkable word-smith but the idea and the way he executes them seems overly precise.

He made me reconsider the idea that good, clear writing is good, clear thought.

I ended up preferring his sloppier, stoner literary sibling Jonathan Lethem much more.

I always tell would-be readers of Infinite Jest that it doesn't really hit full stride till p. 150

Page 258, the second phone call between Hal and Orin. Then you get into Port Washington tournament and things get rolling. If you're not into it by then, give it up.

All that criticism can do is tell us if a book is complete shite (formulaic genre fiction, built at the James Patterson Novel-factory, etc.) or if it has potential. It might provide insight, but it doesn't provide perspective.

Anti-eponysterical? I couldn't disagree more. But I am a Formalist.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:42 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


O*THIS SPACE RESERVED FOR FRANZEN THREADSHITTING*

Damn, we can threadshit up in here? Alrighty then . . .

You think Franzen will get all twitchy and coyly self-conscious and chewing-on-the-handle-of-his-eyeglasses fretful about all this Novel of the Century By Our New Tolstoy hype? I mean, the way he did when Oprah picked his book, and he wondered out loud to reporters whether it was a Good Thing for his book to be read by millions of people who didn't have MFAs or advanced degrees in English literature? Or does he only do that when he's worried someone from a state school's secondary campus might be reading him?
posted by gompa at 8:43 AM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


You know what the thing about The Corrections is? There's just nothing wrong with it.

I hate to quote this yet again, but man, that's the most accurate thing I've ever seen said about that book, in both of the ways it could be interpreted.

I enjoyed reading The Corrections very much, but I'll be damned if I can remember a single thing about it now. It was about a family, right? That's all I've got.

I'll probably read the new one and enjoy it, but again won't remember anything about it. I'd contrast this with, say, Jonathan Lethem, who is almost the same writer but creates characters and scenes that are extraordinarily memorable, even in the books of his that I didn't really like.
posted by rusty at 8:44 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Card Cheat's "serious literature" link has inspired me to create a new drinking game. Every time a reviewer writes "Like The Corrections...", take a drink.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:48 AM on August 31, 2010


Coincidentally, "The Circulated ARCs of Freedom" was the original title of Larry Niven's Ringworld.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:49 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I ordered this book last night. I look forward to reading it and then rendering some sort of critical judgment.
posted by Skot at 8:49 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Page 258, the second phone call between Hal and Orin. Then you get into Port Washington tournament and things get rolling. If you're not into it by then, give it up.

Well, the awesome tangential riff on why videophones failed starts on p. 144. If that doesn't make you want to follow along anywhere else he wants to go, I don't know what will.

That's right, Franzen. We're derailing your hypefest with a geeky exploration of Wallace minutiae. Protest all you want - you know the suit fits.
posted by gompa at 8:49 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Card Cheat's "serious literature" link has inspired me to create a new drinking game. Every time a reviewer writes "Like The Corrections...", take a drink.

And if you come across "by a writer at the height of his powers," chug.
posted by gompa at 8:50 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Underrated"? Come again? Franzen's the most hyped novelist of the last ten years and I think you're now legally bound to append the phrase "our greatest living short story writer" to any mention of Munro.

Good point. I don't think Franzen is underrated. I just think this particular technical virtue of his, which to me is the axis along which he's really extraordinary, is not so much talked about -- rather he gets promoted a chronicler of "the way we live now," a job he's good at but no better than lots of others.

I, too, am more interested in Lethem, Wallace, and (the first two novels of) Chabon than I am Franzen, so no argument there.

In any case, in the critical hierarachy of recent years, the well-executed seems to trump the actually original.

This is what I mean by "underrated." It's not clear to me why a well-executed, deeply conventional novel shouldn't "trump" a wildly original one which goes badly wrong in places.
posted by escabeche at 8:50 AM on August 31, 2010


I just finished reading a novel that used "franzens" as a generic noun meaning "glasses." It was sort of twee and annoying, which is pretty much how I picture Franzen, about whom I actually know almost nothing.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:50 AM on August 31, 2010


It may be worth noting in light of the attempted DFW sidetracking going on that Frantzen was DFW's closest friend in the last decade, so DFW probably liked his books.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:53 AM on August 31, 2010


escabeche: “You know what the thing about The Corrections is? There's just nothing wrong with it. It was a perfectly executed book. Perfect execution -- especially at great length -- is an underrated literary virtue. (See also: Alice Munro, William Trevor)”

I've never read Franzen, and probably won't for a while – I honestly have no opinion of his work, but I'd rather read books that have zero buzz and zero reputation, so I can actually focus on what they're saying, which means I'll probably have to wait for him.

But this makes me actually want to read that novel. The idea of a perfectly executed book with absolutely no errors being titled The Corrections is a nice bit of irony. Granted, that's all I know about it, so maybe that's the point. Still, I'd want to see this.

I don't even know what it would mean to execute a book perfectly. Is the last section of Ulysses the benchmark for perfect? You'd have to choose something. And it's so hard to compare disparate works that I don't know if that'd be feasible.
posted by koeselitz at 8:53 AM on August 31, 2010


Jonathan Franzen is like Modern Family.

Yes, actually! Things that some people underrate because they have no higher ambition than to do a conventional thing very well.
posted by escabeche at 8:54 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just finished reading a novel that used "franzens" as a generic noun meaning "glasses."

That's that Manhattan noir book with the slang constructed of literary references, right? What is it called and is it any good?
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on August 31, 2010


From the BBC link:

Franzen's daring has been to take on soap operas and HBO mini-series, demonstrating that if you want modern emotional dramas, the novel can provide them today as effectively as it did in the 19th century.

See Rick Moody's The Diviners.

In fact, see Rick Moody's The Four Fingers of Death (video trailer!)

Also, this made me laugh (from The Telegraph article):

A man who insists on writing his books on an old computer, unconnected to the internet

What a Luddite!

I don't even know what it would mean to execute a book perfectly.

I don't think it's possible, or if it is, no one has come even close yet.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:57 AM on August 31, 2010


I enjoyed reading The Corrections very much, but I'll be damned if I can remember a single thing about it now. It was about a family, right?

I don't remember anything about it either. I don't take that to be an argument against the book, but some people might.
posted by escabeche at 8:57 AM on August 31, 2010


escabeche: “... no higher ambition than to do a conventional thing very well.”

Ah, I start to see. It's the same confusion I had when I read the reference in the post to a "literary novel" – huh? I thought that was sort of a given. Aren't novels literary? What would a non-literary novel be?

But it sounds like this is actually sort of a genre, literary fiction / literary novels. (Sorry, I'm not hip to modern fiction really.) And perfect with regard to that genre is different from saying "the perfect novel," which is sort of nebulous. You meant it was perfect at what it was trying to do – fulfill the requirements of that genre. That it did that excellently. And I think there's some virtue in that, so it's interesting.
posted by koeselitz at 8:59 AM on August 31, 2010


It's not clear to me why a well-executed, deeply conventional novel shouldn't "trump" a wildly original one which goes badly wrong in places.

Because the latter is far more rare than the former.

As Salman Rushdie wrote in one of the few positive reviews of Harold Brodkey's huge, delirious, decades-in-the-making The Runaway Soul: "worth ten safe well-written little novels".
posted by Joe Beese at 9:00 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend's last name is Franzén, so everytime I see Jonathan's name in print I'm reminded of her. It's been a good month! :)
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:01 AM on August 31, 2010


What is it called and is it any good?

It's The Thieves of Manhattan, and it wasn't bad. A quick read, maybe a beach book, somewhere south of 275 pages. The first third-or-half is a bit slow, but it picks up once Shit Gets Real™ and becomes a page-turner. I've been reading mostly from my library's New Releases shelf lately, and this was one of the better picks.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:02 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


And seriously... "novel of the century"? All 10 years of it?

Yep, I had a lovely rant about this with some of my literary-minded friends about this very claim.


Isn't the author just saying it's the best novel of the 2000s? Maybe overrating it, but it's not that ridiculous.

I'm not sure what my vote for Novel of the Century would be: probably something by Richard Powers--The Time of Our Singing or The Echo Maker.

Richard Powers does not get enough attention. He's the greatest American novelist right now, imo. (I am assuming Pynchon is a Mexican.)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:04 AM on August 31, 2010


But it sounds like this is actually sort of a genre, literary fiction / literary novels.

"Literary fiction" is an anti-genre, in a way. In that its overall quality is supposed to transcend the constraints of genre writing. It's the same reason Serious Literature People tend to wince when you refer to Vonnegut as an SF writer.
posted by griphus at 9:05 AM on August 31, 2010


> Card Cheat's "serious literature" link has inspired me to create a new drinking game.

It's a link to gompa's quip. I don't really have a dog in this fight because I haven't read any of Franzen's books, but when I saw that Time cover the other day I cracked up because it seemed like such a perfect example of what he was talking about.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:05 AM on August 31, 2010


Richard Powers does not get enough attention. He's the greatest American novelist right now, imo. (I am assuming Pynchon is a Mexican.)

Richard Powers is kind of cold. His books read like clinical treatments to me, although I liked the one about the hospital and the children's crusade. Oh, and Three Farmers.
posted by OmieWise at 9:07 AM on August 31, 2010


I would suggest not badmouthing critics by claiming they (or any single one of the bunch) have not read the book unless you can offer evidence of this...talk about hyperbole!

One thing to be nopted: the book, it seems, is old fashioned (that is not derogatory) in its presentation (realisitic, striahgt forward narrative), and, if this is so and the book is great, then what will that tell those writers and readers who prefer the more post modern (or whatever it is called) experimental forms of fiction?
posted by Postroad at 9:08 AM on August 31, 2010


Is this something I'd need to be literate to understand?

Seriously, I really liked the Corrections. I didn't think Strong Motion was quite as good, but it was still an enjoyable read. He knows how to plan and pace a plot. His characters are strong and evoke sympathy. He's no Toole or Lowry, but hell, who is? I really don't get the hate, and I will probably read this when it comes out in paperback, or gets remaindered to Half Price.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:08 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because the latter is far more rare than the former.

See, here's where we disagree. There are so many novelists and so very, very few who can write five good sentences in a row, let alone keep it up for a whole novel. Originality is much easier and more common.

As Salman Rushdie wrote in one of the few positive reviews of Harold Brodkey's huge, delirious, decades-in-the-making The Runaway Soul: "worth ten safe well-written little novels".

So it's worth half as much per page as one of those novels?

I kid, I kid. Actually, here's what I'm gonna do -- I'm NOT going to read Freedom right now. Instead I'll read the copy of The Runaway Soul that's been sitting on my shelf for ten years. That dude's short stories are miraculous and it's a shondeh I haven't read the big book.
posted by escabeche at 9:08 AM on August 31, 2010


Geez, such Franzen hate here. The man may be an ass, and the hype may be ridiculous, but try to separate that from the work. The Corrections is good, really good. It's epic, sprawling, and thematically complex, yet he never takes his eyes or sympathy away from his characters. It's pretty much the opposite of cold and calculating. I didn't detect a trace of nastiness. The tone was more mournful and aching than anything else. Several pages stabbed me in the heart, which is something that rarely happens with a Pynchon or Delillo novel. Most of you seem to have read an entirely different novel than I did. I get the sense that a lot of baggage surrounding the man, his admirers and "literary fiction" in general is being brought to the table.
posted by naju at 9:12 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I get the sense that a lot of baggage surrounding the man, his admirers and "literary fiction" in general is being brought to the table.

When I picked up The Corrections, the only "baggage" that I was aware of was that it was a much hyped book and that "readers" were reading him that season. I could not make it half-way through and now I struggle with picking up this next one. It seems to carry a similar (if not worse) hype and is also about a family that faces dysfunction of some type.

I've enjoyed his essays and some of his short stories but something about the way he writes a novel, turns me off completely.
posted by Fizz at 9:15 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


It may be worth noting in light of the attempted DFW sidetracking going on that Frantzen was DFW's closest friend in the last decade, so DFW probably liked his books.

Oh, I know. That was the kinda subtext for the gag . . . also one of the reasons I really, really, really tried to get into The Corrections . . . also the reason why I now secretly blame Franzen for Wallace's death . . .

/derail

/too soon?
posted by gompa at 9:17 AM on August 31, 2010


[Dismissive Blanket Generalization]

I don't read much Updike or Irving types because it's pretty much just about how worried they are about their cocks.

I don't read much Moody or Franzen-types because it's pretty much just about how sad they are that their dads were to busy worrying about their cocks to give their sons a hug.

[/Dismissive Blanket Generaliztion]
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:25 AM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm gonna travel to the past and invent the internet of the Tolstoy era.
posted by symbioid at 9:29 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Suck it, Vannevar Bush!
posted by symbioid at 9:30 AM on August 31, 2010


Geesh, between the typos and the grammar and other technical crapness of my previous comment, it could understandably be presumed that I don't read much of nothing.

NOTE TO SELF: SLEEP MOAR, SNARK IS IMPAIRED
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:38 AM on August 31, 2010


I don't remember anything about it either. I don't take that to be an argument against the book, but some people might.

I didn't exactly mean it to be an argument against the book, just that I tend to revise my judgment of books after some time has elapsed, based on whether any of it has stuck with me or not. Chronic City is a good example of the opposite -- I didn't like it very much when I was reading it, but a lot of it has stuck with me, and I'd be surprised if it didn't get a re-reading sometime.
posted by rusty at 9:45 AM on August 31, 2010


I think what needs to be understood about Franzen is that he doesn't mean to be an ass, really, he really is just that uncomfortable with any sort of social interaction.

I went to Franzen's alma mater, and we were both German majors there (we had the same drill instructor! he "adored" her for her "limitless patience and beautifully chiseled Nordic looks," and the fact that she "couldn't frown sternly without also smiling at her sterness"). He translated Spring Awakening from the German for his senior thesis, and the drama department produced it while I was there.

Franzen came to campus for the event, and he seemed to genuinely admire the production, but he wasn't experiencing it as a triumphant homecoming, because he was so self-conscious the entire time. He refused to do any interviews with student journalists (his reflection on his time as a student journalist, from the commencement speech he gave at Swarthmore, is also revealing--"one of my defects as a journalist, it turned out, was that I was afraid to do interviews... you might as well get used to kind of person you are right now, because that person isn't going anywhere"), and although he agreed to answer questions post-play, he shifted around on his seat, didn't look at the audience, and spoke to us from a place very deep inside his own head.

He never used a pleasantry like "it's nice to be back here" or "you kids did a great job," but went on and on about the technicalities of translation. He did say that he admired the actors ("almost everything seems easier than being an actor"), but this segued into a discussion about what it had been like to have to act as awkward fourteen-year-olds. The cast agreed that it had been great, because all of them were awkward themselves, and also because they went to Swarthmore, so they were really just swimming in a fishbowl of awkwardness!

Jonathan Franzen and the Spring Awakening actors was one of the strangest events I ever attended at that school--everyone was clearly impressed by everyone else and basking in their love of the play, but take away the play and most of the people there were too trapped inside their own heads to connect on any other level.

This is all to say that I admit that Franzen has a deserved reputation for pretentiousness and peevishness, but I think under the peevishness there's a genuinely good heart that has simply only ever found one way to express itself.
posted by besonders at 9:54 AM on August 31, 2010 [15 favorites]


I mean, the way he did when Oprah picked his book, and he wondered out loud to reporters whether it was a Good Thing for his book to be read by millions of people who didn't have MFAs or advanced degrees in English literature?

Is that what he did? Do you have an actual quote? (Honestly, not snarking - I didn't pay much attention.)

I thought it was mostly about the logo. I don't think he would have had a problem with being selected if he didn't have to put the logo on the cover.

From what I vaguely remember, it was handled horribly, but hey, he's not a PR rep. My guess was he accepted the selection and his publisher didn't tell him about the logo requirement. I can sympathize. I would have no problem being an Oprah Book Club selection (duh), but I wouldn't want the logo either (like anyone would ever ask).
posted by mrgrimm at 9:58 AM on August 31, 2010


I am <100 pp from the end, and it's pretty terrific (I got an early copy). I usually run from hype, especially when it's as blanket as it has been for FREEDOM, but this time it's spot-on.
posted by kidelo at 9:59 AM on August 31, 2010


The Economist has a small franzgasm.

Pull quote: "The author has spent the past 10 years doing what he does well and making it better."

(So I take it to mean Freedom has even less wrong with it than The Corrections?)

Not Franzenist. But I, too, fall in the camp of having read The Corrections with some anticipation and being disappointed, in the sense of it making not impact at all on me.
posted by chavenet at 9:59 AM on August 31, 2010


You know what the thing about The Corrections is? There's just nothing wrong with it.

I assume you mean nothing wrong besides being hideously boring. I read it. I wanted to love it. But really, it's so boring, so long and the prose so meh that I honestly don't even understand what the deal is. There is not one paragraph in there that can go toe to toe with Nabokov or Salinger. It's reads like a Lifetime movie in book form, as if someone described what they were seeing on TV while it was happening. I rarely dump on books, but I just don't get this book.
posted by milarepa at 10:00 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought it was mostly about the logo. I don't think he would have had a problem with being selected if he didn't have to put the logo on the cover.

Re: Oprah/Sticker - "She's picked some good books," Franzen said in an interview posted on Powells.com, "but she's picked enough schmaltzy, one-dimensional ones that I cringe, myself ..." Although the rest of the quote read "even though I think she's really smart and she's really fighting the good fight," damage was done. Here is the source.
posted by Fizz at 10:06 AM on August 31, 2010


His characters are strong and evoke sympathy.

he never takes his eyes or sympathy away from his characters

I enjoyed The Corrections because it is very, very well written, but this is exactly what I didn't get from the book -- characters with whom I felt sympathy or rapport. I remember the plot better than the characters, which is very odd.

I will be reading this book too, as soon as I can, because Franzen can really write, but I'm going to be hoping for more this time. The Corrections didn't t do for me what books by people like Chabon, and for that matter some of Ian McEwan's books do -- pull me into the emotional grip of characters whose "experiences" matter to me and whose attitudes stay with me like those of real people I have gotten to know.
posted by bearwife at 10:10 AM on August 31, 2010


Thinking back, I did go into The Corrections with no expectations whatsoever. I pay no attention to Oprah or what's popular in literature, really. Back when the book came out, I belonged to some dumb paperback-of-the-month club thing where they'd automatically send you a book every month, and it just showed up in the mail one day, so I read it.

Hype or lack of hype might extrinsically alter the way a person approaches a work, but why are we judging a work by its hype and not by its merits? The hype is certainly not entirely Franzen's fault.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:11 AM on August 31, 2010


You want to guess who she was talking about three or four month ago?

That last book in the Hunger Games trilogy?
posted by inigo2 at 10:15 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


but why are we judging a work by its hype and not by its merits? The hype is certainly not entirely Franzen's fault.

Nope, but that is the main reason why I posted the links because I am a regular reader of various book sections across the web and not since the final Harry Potter book have I seen this much madness surrounding a book.
posted by Fizz at 10:16 AM on August 31, 2010


Just nthing the few people above who can't seem to remember much about the Corrections. I remember enjoying it okay as I read it, never feeling bored by it or dismissive toward it, but pretty much all I remember about it now is the very last line. It's rather odd, how little space in my head it ended up taking up.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:20 AM on August 31, 2010


I remember the plot better than the characters, which is very odd.

I was utterly infatuated with the female protagonist of Strong Motion, but thought the plot got weak. I can see how the characters of The Corrections might not grab everyone's sympathy, but I thought they were very well-formed.

I'm reading The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates right now, and all the characters are like cardboard to me. I'm not really getting it at all. (Is it an environmental screed? A romance? A study of family interactions? It seems like it wants to be all three, and is a tad weak on all fronts.)

people like Chabon, and for that matter some of Ian McEwan's books

I am a philistine who has never even heard these names before today, which is maybe why I'm a little un-critical in general -- I'm still catching up on The Classics, and haven't had proper time for contemporary writers. I'll add them to the ol' wish list though. Any particular titles?
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:21 AM on August 31, 2010


You forgot me, MeFite 0. "Who?"

You know, Jonathan Franzen. The guy who played Commander Riker.
posted by roystgnr at 10:23 AM on August 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


characters with whom I felt sympathy or rapport

This is something I've almost never gotten from contemporary literary fiction. I'm not sure why - when I read Steinbeck or (further back) literary fiction from the 1800s, there are usually characters that inspire some degree of empathy. Much of the characterization in these sorts of novels today seems...I don't know, cold and empty. There's irony and disconnectedness and buried anger, but not much else. I just finished Ian McEwan's most recent novel and spent a while afterwards trying to figure out why it made me so damn tired.

I don't doubt there are writers out there that are quite different, but the ones that I tend to see on the NYT website or on critical sites or in magazine articles tend to have this same sort of disconnected emptiness. Maybe it's just a fad among writers - or among critics.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:23 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just nthing the few people above who can't seem to remember much about the Corrections. I remember enjoying it okay as I read it, never feeling bored by it or dismissive toward it, but pretty much all I remember about it now is the very last line. It's rather odd, how little space in my head it ended up taking up.

I read about 3/4 into The Corrections and very quickly abandoned Franzen. But the subject for The Corrections is what I found to be dull. I do not remember many specifics but something along the lines of a seemingly "normal" well-to-do family who GASP! is not normal at all but is actually flawed and broken.

I am rather tired of this sad convention. The mother who secretly drinks or does drugs. A gay son who has yet to come out to his father. A father who lusts after his daughter in a disturbing way. The daughter who gambles and whores herself out on the streets at night but is a lawyer in a prestigious firm during the day.

It's unfair to prevent myself from enjoying an entire author's work simply because my first exposure to them was less than satisfactory. Author's change and they're highly versatile. Just because Mr. Franzen wrote something that I did not enjoy early on in his career does not mean that this will also disappoint. But it is a struggle.
posted by Fizz at 10:24 AM on August 31, 2010


Call me when I can read this on my phone.

Oh wait. I CAN.
posted by fungible at 10:24 AM on August 31, 2010


mostly kidding... but I do always read "Jonathan Frakes" the first time I see his name.
posted by roystgnr at 10:24 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, the point of that was not 'no good literature has been written since Steinbeck' - I don't think that the presence of this phenomenon reduces a work to 'bad literature' or anything. It just cuts the appeal such stuff has for me right down to the bone, and I suspect I'm not alone in that.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:25 AM on August 31, 2010


Speaking of spoilers...I read Dave Egger's Zeitoun the other day, a book about a man who stays behind in New Orleans during Katrina (no, that's not much of a spoiler). (BTW, I don't care much for his fiction, but this is a very good unpretentious book.)

Anyway, the narrative takes a dramatic turn well into the book, which was a hell of a lot more like a kick in the head than it would have been had I read the reviews on the inside of the book, which hinted at these events.
posted by kozad at 10:27 AM on August 31, 2010


fascinating, besonders. What a thoroughly depressing commencement speech. Comparing Franzen's and DFW's, you'd be hard pressed not to imagine their fates swapped.

you may be wrong about a lot of stuff now, wrong about almost everything, wrong about the Mr. Cratsleys in your life, but you might as well get used to kind of person you are right now, because that person isn't going anywhere.

a remarkable use of the word "but" I think. fascinating.

on preview: thanks, fizz. that's what i was searching (unsuccessfully) for. It still seems like a selection of quotes taken out of context and packaged together. But I can certainly understand the reaction against.

it will be difficult for him to erase the impression that snobbishness caused him to diss Winfrey

I take great comfort in the fact that pissing off Oprah Winfrey did not affect his career significantly one way or another.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:28 AM on August 31, 2010


I just re-read David Gates' review of The Corrections from the New York Times (linked in the FPP).

I had forgotten that the book came out right before September 11. (The NYT review is from September 9, 2001.)

It shouldn't interfere with anybody's rich suspense to report that all the mighty bulk of ''The Corrections'' turns on a single, definingly American question: Will Mom be able to get the whole family home for one last Christmas?

Modern travel issues aside, it's hardly Franzen's fault that's no longer the Americans' singular defining question, nor that some of the su/burban noodling & angst became suddenly less pressing.
posted by chavenet at 10:30 AM on August 31, 2010


See this? My right arm. It's yours, if you can guarantee me one hundredth this much hype when my book comes out.

And FWIW, dissing Oprah was brilliant marketing. Who do you remember, Oprah Book #412 or The Author Who Said No?

I wonder if a preemptive strike would work...The Author Who Would Say No To Oprah If She Would Only Ask.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:39 AM on August 31, 2010


But the subject for The Corrections is what I found to be dull. I do not remember many specifics but something along the lines of a seemingly "normal" well-to-do family who GASP! is not normal at all but is actually flawed and broken.

The whales, they do get smaller, don't they?

Split yer lungs with blood and thunder if ye see the White Minnow!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:39 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


characters with whom I felt sympathy or rapport

This is something I've almost never gotten from contemporary literary fiction.


Again I must recommend Richard Powers, though someone above criticized him as "cold."

I think it must be impossible to read Plowing in the Dark and not feel a tremendous amount of empathy and rapport with Taimur Martin. It's extreme and painful, but the character also seems very real.

Also, how about Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna? If Harrison Shepherd is not a sympathetic character (he is), Violet Brown surely.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:44 AM on August 31, 2010


"Underrated"? Come again? Franzen's the most hyped novelist of the last ten years

What about Chabon? But seriously, this book sounds incredibly boring. Maybe a little little details make it interesting. But. It's a book about some random family, right? Why would I even want to read about that?

At least with Chabon his books have interesting premises. Like, if I'd never heard of the authors before a book like the escapist might at least seem like something that might be interesting. Or the Yiddish Policeman's Club. The appeal is to discover a world -- or a facet of the world that's unlike your own.

Why on earth would I want to read about some random mid-western family? Maybe it's actually exotic for New York literary elites or something.

(My sister once told me that, once in NYC someone asked her where she was from and she said Iowa, they responded with "What that like!?")

Is that it? Is an average mid-western family somehow exotic to the people who write these reviews and so on?

Because honestly this just seems like literature for boring people. Why would you want to read a book about people just like yourself and the people you know, doing things that you and people you know do?
posted by delmoi at 10:50 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Those of us who read lots of books, usually get pointed towards books we want to read by reading reviews by people or magazine and papers that we trust for reviews. In this instance, The Guardian and The New York Times sufficient to convince me about the merits of the novel. Not enough? The Economist also gives a 5 star review of the book--and yes, their reviewer read the book. Then too there is NPR and L.A. Times and Newsday, also very positive. And for many other newspaper reviews,
http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2010/0831/Freedom-by-Jonathan-Franzen-a-review-roundup?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feeds%2Fbooksblog+%28Christian+Science+Monitor+|+Chapter+and+Verse%29
this Christian Science Monitor review (very positive) lists a lot of other reviews and sums up what each has to say.
posted by Postroad at 10:50 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because honestly this just seems like literature for boring people. Why would you want to read a book about people just like yourself and the people you know, doing things that you and people you know do?

Honestly, why stop there. Why do anything...lord knows it's all been done before. You're a human, let's not read about humans then, because we know how dull and boring that is.
posted by Fizz at 10:53 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is that it? Is an average mid-western family somehow exotic to the people who write these reviews and so on?

As a writer from the western edge of the Canadian prairie, I can tell you anecdotally that for most of the people I meet in the New York media world, when I enunciate the name of Canada's fourth-largest city, it translates into Manhattanese as "Outer Mongolia." Or possibly "Mars."

Replies have included the baffled, slightly pitying response, "What's that like?" Pretty much verbatim.

Unless they ski. Then they're envious.
posted by gompa at 10:56 AM on August 31, 2010


escabeche: You know what the thing about The Corrections is? There's just nothing wrong with it.

We can hem and haw about technique vs. style and somebody has yet to bring up wabi-sabi I see but I'll just quote maybe my favorite definition of the novel, so long as we all agree that "novel" is one of those words you just can't define:

"A novel is a narrative of a certain length with something wrong with it." --Randall Jarrell

I haven't yet read Franzen, mostly because I love the shaggy and the malformed and the weird and the old which is usually mistaken for the postmodern, and I've always been worried I'd skid off the pages of The Corrections and end up flat on my back or something, but anyway that's all on me and not on him at all and more power to those who love this sort of thing, but I've been giggling all morning at this passage from the Times review:
His motives aren’t purely mercenary: he also yearns to impress the Straussian’s luscious daughter, a materialistic tease captured by Franzen in all her narcissism: “She gave Joey a once-over head to toe, the way a person might confirm that a product she’d ordered had arrived in acceptable condition, and then removed her hand luggage from the seat beside her and­ — a little reluctantly, it seemed — pulled the iPod wires from her ears.” The magic is in “a little reluctantly”: one sees the fleeting look of displeasure, the slow tug on the wires; rather, remembers it, from similar images stored in one’s mind and awaiting release. There are numberless such moments in “Freedom,” crystalline instances of precise notation shaped by imaginative sympathy.
And boy, that Sam Tanenhaus, I think. He's read a book or two, he has.

(Not to get all prescriptive or nothing, but unless you're shooting for something a little cold, a little clinical, well showing us the fleeting look and the slow tug directly and allowing the reluctance to be inferred is usually a better choice--stylistically, technically--for the sort of madeleine-moment Tanenhaus is rhapsodizing all out of proportion to the grey little passage quoted.)
posted by kipmanley at 10:56 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a book about some random family, right? Why would I even want to read about that?

Holy crap, you're right.

*throws copy of Anna Karenina into the fire*
posted by turaho at 11:00 AM on August 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


It's a book about some random family, right? Why would I even want to read about that?

This is an astounding comment. I'll tell you the truth, delmoi, you often say things that indicate you're smart and thoughtful, but you also often say things that seem said in order to be contrary. This comment makes you sound young and idiotic, and like someone who doesn't really like books or literature much. That's fine, but kind of disqualifies you from offering a very good opinion. Interesting premises quite often make crappy books.
posted by OmieWise at 11:01 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


For all his faults, Franzen got Paula Fox's Desperate Characters back in print. I gotta give him props for that.

mrgrimm: "
Again I must recommend Richard Powers, though someone above criticized him as "cold."
"

While I've liked some of the Powers novels I've read, I wouldn't describe him as cold at all. On the contrary, I think the "love stories" in his novels often rise to an almost Nicholas Sparks-level of hokey sentimentality. I think Powers' faults often get glossed over because of how ferociously intelligent he can be. He's really great at thematically weaving the philosophical side of scientific exploration into his narratives, but when he's not doing that, he can be pretty cheesy.
posted by fryman at 11:01 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting premises quite often make crappy books.

In conversation with a couple of friends of mine, I often use the phrase "PREMISE BEACH!" as the shorthand for this very true sentiment. It seems to be a problem in all kinds of novels, but even more so in short films and sketches -- one interesting or funny idea, then a slow, somewhat boring attempt to fill the remaining runtime long enough to justify the work's existence.

Which is not to say that all Crazy Premises lead to bad work, of course! But when a person has one real fucking wild idea, I think there's often a temptation to coast on the strength of that idea rather than continuing to work hard on the moment-to-moment details.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:15 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why on earth would I want to read about some random mid-western family?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random family from Oklahoma?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random family from Mississippi?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random family from Alabama?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random family from suburban New York?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random family from Oregon?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random family from Minnesota?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random family from Nebraska?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random mid-western family?

Why on earth would I want to read about some random mid-western family?

c'mon, delmoi. that's weak thinking.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:15 AM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I plan on purchasing this novel tomorrow. Despite my less than savory experience with his first novel The Corrections, I still want to give Mr. Franzen a chance. I am not ruling out that my reading of The Corrections was simply a bad time to pick up that book as I have found some books require multiple approaches and/or different points in life to be properly enjoyed.
posted by Fizz at 11:17 AM on August 31, 2010


Freedom Forced
posted by stbalbach at 11:22 AM on August 31, 2010


Why on earth would I want to read about some random mid-western family?

I never thought that I would defend Franzen, but delmoi's forcing me to. If this were a criterion for not reading a novel, you might as well burn anything ever written by John Updike and Sinclair Lewis.

The appeal is to discover a world -- or a facet of the world that's unlike your own.

Any novel that is well-written and worth its salt can help you discover a facet of the world unlike your own -- even if that facet is something that you believe is already utterly familiar to you. That's far harder in many ways to do than it is to spin something like The Yiddish Policemen's Union.
posted by blucevalo at 11:25 AM on August 31, 2010


What would a non-literary novel be?

Anything by Dan Brown, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts... anything labeled "chick lit"...
posted by dnash at 11:27 AM on August 31, 2010


Anything by Dan Brown, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts... anything labeled "chick lit"...
dnash...you mean airport-fiction. That's the term I've always applied to those authors you just listed. That is not to say that they lack cultural or social value.
posted by Fizz at 11:28 AM on August 31, 2010


I'll add them to the ol' wish list though. Any particular titles?

Try these: Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And (in this order) Ian McEwan's Atonement and The Child in Time.

Would love a memail to hear what you think.
posted by bearwife at 11:37 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Try these: Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And (in this order) Ian McEwan's Atonement and The Child in Time.

Also, anything by Jonathan Safran Foer
posted by Fizz at 11:44 AM on August 31, 2010


Thanks, bearwife! These filters are making me more smarter!
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:46 AM on August 31, 2010


an interesting thread. i haven't read Franzen, though read his quip, "You have to love before you can be relentless."

what i found intriguing was this moment in 1996 between him and David Foster Wallace, from (pardon) a conversation on the night sky backdrop of a certain Mr. Rose, namely the head-wagging and call-out at 11:47 and some milliseconds. storied writers in storied locked horns about audience and readership, indeed.
posted by simulacra at 12:26 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since no one else will defend delmoi, I'll do it, since I know exactly where he's coming from. I've often said the same thing to my friends.

I'm not, and I'm sure he's not, rejecting certain stories just because they're about ordinary families / middle class situations. The rejection is directed at a literary genre I personally call "New Yorker lit", namely the listless stories that the New Yorker used to run (and perhaps still does) and often seemed to feature some dysfunctional couple / family in an upper middle class environment and nothing of interest occurs.

If the book jacket of this modern literary novel reads something to the effect of "Middle aged professor / doctor / salaryman, in the suburban America of 2010, feels estranged from his wife and children, and wonders: where did it all go wrong? Taking a pottery class and having an affair offer no relief. Ultimately, he's just going to die feeling terribly lost and empty. It's going to be rather sad, we promise." then I'll probably pass it by unless a friend tells me that the description of how a pot was cast brought her to tears.

But if the jacket reads: "Middle aged professor / doctor / salaryman, in the suburban America of 2010, feels estranged from his wife and children, and wonders: where did it all go wrong? Taking a pottery class and having an affair offer no relief. One day in the mail, he receives a strange coded letter from a childhood friend and returns with his old compatriots to the woods to worship the Great God Pan. Hilarity, weirdness, and giant kittens will occur." then I'll probably give it a chance.

If the book about the hopeless professor, his sad family, and his pottery class was set in the 1890's or 1950's or in the Stockholm of 2010, then it would possibly get read. Even if the story itself was boring, I'd at least gain some insights into the daily life, history, and culture of a place different from where I live.

I'm sure delmoi and I are missing out on some great modern works, but there's only so much time for reading and you have to have a filter of some sort. This filter works for me, Your mileage may vary.
posted by honestcoyote at 1:11 PM on August 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


Has it been described as a "tour de force"? Because I'd had bad, bad experiences with books that are described as so, especially if the phrase appears in reviews on the book jacket's back cover. See also: Life of Pi, The Road, Angela's Ashes, Jasmine, DaVinci Code and Memoirs of a Geisha.
posted by 8dot3 at 1:22 PM on August 31, 2010


"Middle aged professor / doctor / salaryman, in the suburban America of 2010, feels estranged from his wife and children, and wonders: where did it all go wrong? Taking a pottery class and having an affair offer no relief. Ultimately, he's just going to die feeling terribly lost and empty. It's going to be rather sad, we promise."

Let me guess, Delillo's "White Noise"?
posted by bobo123 at 1:22 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm with delmoi and honestcoyote though with, perhaps, a different twist. I hate emotional crap in my film, TV, and reading. Love, hate, whatever, it's all really annoying. It's not that something can't be good or even great with these elements (Steinbeck, Buffy, etc.) but it's a big distraction that takes some really big writing to overcome.

Seeing that a book is about a Midwestern family and their issues screams that there's all kinds of emotional crap intended to manipulate me emotionally. Phooey on that. If I'm told that there's also a competition between a bear and shark, with all things being equal, to see who would in a fight, then you've got me. If further I find out the author is a master at manipulating language then I've already finished the first chapter before you get to the end of this sentence (DFW, Joyce).
posted by bfootdav at 1:27 PM on August 31, 2010


a literary genre I personally call "New Yorker lit", namely the listless stories that the New Yorker used to run (and perhaps still does) and often seemed to feature some dysfunctional couple / family in an upper middle class environment and nothing of interest occurs.

It might be embarassing, how often I link to this story on metafilter, if I wasn't so deeply in love with it.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:27 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


"literature bores me, especially great literature"

-John Berryman
posted by nanojath at 1:27 PM on August 31, 2010


More on "New Yorker lit" in general and Franzen in particular, from the enjoyably bilious eXile. I wouldn't go quite so far as John Dolan but he mentions a lot of what I find irritating about Franzen.
posted by theodolite at 1:39 PM on August 31, 2010


With all due respect, Greg Nog, there's way too much going on in that story. "Typical New Yorker Story" would probably go something more like this:
Gary looked up from the paper he was composing for submission to the New England Journal of Medicine. The painting again. The one with the abstract shapes she'd bought on that inexplicably tense trip to Provence all those years ago. It'd hung there through two Bush administrations. He'd never liked it.

There was a layer of grimy dust on it now, you could see it gathered in the beveled corners when the light of Connecticut or else Long Island autumn slanted in. He would have to dust it off before the kids came for Thanksgiving. They'd notice, and judge him. They'd judge him anyway, but at least not for the dust on the painting in the slanting autumn light that slants as it does with the slanting and sliding, which of course you're supposed to equate with Gary's fragile mortality, you need a schematic or can we move on?

The paper was supposed to restore his reputation as a plastic surgeon or cancer researcher, whichever made him seem more sympathetic despite his palpable misanthropy. He could barely concentrate on his work, thinking of the damn painting and Provence and his ex-wife who'd stolen the last of his erections and moved to LA.

He decided not to dust it off and went to pour himself a glass of red wine instead.
Sneer all you want, this has been optioned by Sam Mendes. Dennis Quaid has been confirmed as Gary and we're thinking Julianne Moore as the painting. In theatres next December.
posted by gompa at 1:43 PM on August 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Why did it take 9 years to write the follow-up to THE CORRECTIONS? Three Words: WORLD OF WARCRAFT.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:43 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Just wanted to say I'm actually happy to see MeFi staying focused on Franzen and his book in this thread - I'm sick of the hype, too, but mostly what I'm sick of is hearing about those two chick-lit women piggybacking on Franzen's hype by whining that no one takes their 14-book-long series of "Sex and the City" ripoffs as seriously as they take Franzen... Mentioned above, and as quickly dismissed as it deserved. Bravo, comrades!)
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 1:51 PM on August 31, 2010


I read the Corrections, and if nothing else, I thought it was a perfect book for Oprah. Seriously. Full of melodrama and unhappy people, and a central female character who dealt with shit she shouldn't have to. I'm pretty shocked by various claims of Franzen's sympathy for his characters, because the one defining trait I remember from the novel was that it seemed so cold, so distant, and even contemptuous of the characters. It was, to me, a joyless, ugly novel.

As someone who tries to buy a good handfull of books on the rare occasions I go home (simply because they're twice as much or more in Japan), I was pretty pissed that I'd wasted suitcase space on the Corrections.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:14 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is an astounding comment. I'll tell you the truth, delmoi, you often say things that indicate you're smart and thoughtful, but you also often say things that seem said in order to be contrary. This comment makes you sound young and idiotic, and like someone who doesn't really like books or literature much. That's fine, but kind of disqualifies you from offering a very good opinion. Interesting premises quite often make crappy books.
The idea that you can tell how smart someone is by what kind of literature they like is something only an idiot would think.
Why on earth would I want to read about some random family from Alabama?
You honestly can't see the difference between To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Grapes of Wrath and a book about people who sit around listening to iPods and talking about Married With Children. A book about a family where something interesting happens to a family is vastly different then this quotidian nonsense. I'd like to see protagonists who deal with challenges greater then late 90s / early-21st century upper-middle class suburban ennui or whatever the hell these books are supposed to be about.
posted by delmoi at 2:16 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


delmoi, I see what you're saying and as I've mentioned above, my own tastes are to shy away from the dysfunctional family story. I feel as if it's been to death. That being said, just because his first book The Corrections was about a dysfunctional family that I found somewhat boring does not mean that this next one will be completely the same. Only way to find out is to read the damn thing.
posted by Fizz at 2:31 PM on August 31, 2010


Only way to find out is to read the damn thing.

Hopefully Wikipedia will have a plot summary up soon.
posted by delmoi at 3:02 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have never seen a book so universally well reviewed. Even the Economist is completely in love with it. I am looking forward to reading it myself - despite some of my misgivings with parts of The Corrections, the arc of the story as the characters moved towards the (or their version of) truth was ultimately satisfying and heart breaking. And that 'truth' can be found in the most mundane of places, in our everyday lives, and writers like Franzen and Munro (who gets body checked upthread for some reason) illuminate the journey we all embark upon.
posted by helmutdog at 3:05 PM on August 31, 2010


The idea that you can tell how smart someone is by what kind of literature they like is something only an idiot would think.

Luckily for both our sakes, I never suggested I could do anything of the sort. Perhaps you aren't smart enough to actually read my comment? No matter, I'm sure you can come up with something suitably blithe and dismissive to say.
posted by OmieWise at 3:13 PM on August 31, 2010


a book about people who sit around listening to iPods and talking about Married With Children.

I'm pretty sure that the plot includes more than that. The Corrections certainly did.

I'll read it and let you know.

The idea that you can tell how smart someone is by what kind of literature they like is something only an idiot would think.

And yeah, I don't think anyone said that, but you're certainly right. You can usually tell, however, what sort of books people like by what kind of literature they like.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:27 PM on August 31, 2010


I'm personally with Cormac McCarthy, who says he doesn't have time for literature that isn't about issues of life and death. But that's just me; y'all get down with your bad selves.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:00 PM on August 31, 2010


Franzen is all hype. His work is far too prosaic to excuse his massive ego. He's self-important and condescending.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 4:25 PM on August 31, 2010


I'm personally with Cormac McCarthy, who says he doesn't have time for literature that isn't about issues of life and death. But that's just me; y'all get down with your bad selves.

But Bookhouse who says that familial relationships is not a matter of life and death. Often it is.
posted by Fizz at 4:27 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, if you're speaking literally, then great. King Lear, for instance.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:35 PM on August 31, 2010


I called my local Borders to reserve a copy, and the woman on the phone had never heard of the novel, and said it wasn't available. Then she said oops, it just came out today, she hadn't known. Okay, so then I went to the store after work to pick it up, and noticed I was the only one who'd bothered to reserve a copy. Also, it wasn't prominently featured anywhere at the front of the store. Glenn Beck's novel The Overton Window was all over the place, though.

So while I probably need to move to a new town, maybe critical hype for novels just doesn't mean what it used to. This is the "novel of the century!", after all, and the buying public doesn't seem to care.
posted by naju at 4:37 PM on August 31, 2010


I'm personally with Cormac McCarthy, who says he doesn't have time for literature that isn't about issues of life and death.

Considering that humor rarely tends to be such an issue -- assuming he means "life and death" in the "a matter of..." sense -- this explains a whole lot about Mr. McCarthy.
posted by griphus at 4:37 PM on August 31, 2010


I can't help but be skeptical when a novel is hyped as the "book of {year x, decade y, century z}." While I will certainly read this, and most likely enjoy it, I always like to remind myself that The Great Gatsby and The Sound and the Fury were largely out of print for a significant duration of their respective authors' lives.
posted by statelyplumpbuckmulligan at 4:44 PM on August 31, 2010


I tried reading The Corrections but I couldn't get past about 40 pages of his stultifyingly boring prose, so fuck this new one.
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well: I've never read The Corrections, thought it looked fucking boring in fact, but the Slate review of Freedom interested me just because of the scope it implies. Being a comics dork and an English major, it will surprise nobody when I say that Kavalier and Clay is one of my favorite novels. And while I'd be lying if I said I didn't pick it up due to the subject matter, what floored me was just how generous and expansive the novel was...a book that spans decades, that travels all over the world, that can show you the broad strokes of history just as easily as it can drop into a character's head and make him or her wholly and immediately sympathetic. Frankly, this is a kind of novel that is usually lacking in well-drawn characters (I'm looking at you, the seven chapters of Pillars of the Earth I managed to read), even if it can pull off the detail and tell a solid story, but it's a kind of novel I love when it's done right...which is almost never, because it's a kind of novel that's just really hard to do, and rarely attempted. Chabon hasn't done it since, for all of that.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:59 PM on August 31, 2010


Oh sweet Jebus please let B.R. Myers get his hands on this one.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:25 PM on August 31, 2010


In retrospect, I wish I had known how impressed I should have been.

Story of my life. Can I reserve it for my headstone?
posted by philip-random at 6:22 PM on August 31, 2010


What would a non-literary novel be?

Anything by Dan Brown, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts... anything labeled "chick lit"...


Where does Elmore Leonard fit in?
posted by philip-random at 6:28 PM on August 31, 2010


kittens for breakfast: The Corrections is everything that Kavalier and Clay isn't. (Agree with you about Chabon's subsequent work, by the way).
posted by rusty at 6:34 PM on August 31, 2010


I read The Corrections. I thought it was well written and sometimes interesting, but it did not capture my imagination.

I had avoided Alice Munro for many years because I presumed that she embodied things which I did not care for (rural+Canadian+dreary). When finally forced to confront her work during an interminable phase in a doctor's waiting room, I was really impressed. When it comes to fiction, Alice Munro kicks ass.

So, don't compare Franzen to Munro, or Tolstoy for that matter.

Let us put thingys in perspective. Franzen is not a bad writer, I liked some of his New Yorker work.
posted by ovvl at 6:39 PM on August 31, 2010


book about a family where something interesting happens to a family is vastly different then this quotidian nonsense. I'd like to see protagonists who deal with challenges greater then late 90s / early-21st century upper-middle class suburban ennui or whatever the hell these books are supposed to be about.

Well put, delmoi. Here we see the void inherent in oft-heard advice that writers should write about what they know. Fine and dandy if they've had some genuinely remarkable experiences, but man, it's a slippery slope when they're, in essence, from the cookie cutter family that lives across the cookie cutter street from your parents in that deadly drab cookie cutter neighbourhood that you long, long ago gave up as drab and ummm ... deadly.

But throw in a psycho killer or some weird hallucinogenic mushroom spoor that gets into the water system and it starts to get interesting.
posted by philip-random at 6:43 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I got my copy today

- Mefite No. 2
posted by caddis at 7:04 PM on August 31, 2010


Here we see the void inherent in oft-heard advice that writers should write about what they know.

I've always felt the real problem is people confusing "write what you know" with "write what you've done."
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:58 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Considering she almost exclusively reads either non-fiction/policy or hard-as-diamond SF...

Bathe her and bring her to me.
posted by neuron at 8:51 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I never thought that I would defend Franzen, but delmoi's forcing me to.

Heh. I went out and bought the book yesterday just to spite the haters. That's right, a spite purchase. How commercial.

I got it 25% off ($22.99 after tax) at a local bookseller - There were 4 copies on a shelf that fit 5. I suspect there are a few boxes in the back, but this is no Harry Potter deal. (Ah, the Web site helpfully says there are 7 copies as of 8:31pm Wednesday.)

It's not even on their New Books this Week list. (anyone care to comment on David Mitchell? any good? ...)

I'm personally with Cormac McCarthy, who says he doesn't have time for literature that isn't about issues of life and death.

That's awfully vague. I wonder what he'd think of Flatland.

I'm only ~40 pages into Freedom (at the beginning of the (first?) autobiography section), but I'm pretty sure it's about "life and death" issues (as most of these novels where people say "nothing happens" are). It's like a Tom Wolfe blurg or any novel with grand literary ambitions. It's about everything.

These types of realistic novels are cultural chronicles. They aim to capture a time and place, a zeitgeist--and more importantly, the various characters' reactions to those circumstances and events.

What Freedom seems to be, so far, is a chronicle of the years before and after the World Trade Center/Pentagon terrorist attacks, the gentrification and development of an urban St. Paul MN neighborhood, and the dissolution of 1 "middle-class American family" via potential psychological breakdown by not-so-dear old mom. There are clear hints of major sexual issues, and, as the main couple moves from MN to Washington D.C., a likely focus on the country's political and social 'tudes. (i.e. the fucking title.)

I'm also about 95% sure someone will die, so there's that life and death issue as well.

It's been a long time since I've read Franzen, but I'm liking it so far. He has an easy style to me, like T.C. Boyle (whom I prefer). I find him much more of a page-turner than Moody or Ford or Lethem.

I think Richard Ford is an apt comparison. If you liked The Sportswriter series, I think you'll like Freedom. I think Ford is an awesome short story writer and I loved Lay of the Land (I'm the only person I know who finished it), but Franzen is better, imo.

So Pynchon > Powers > DeLillo > Boyle > Moody > Lethem > Franzen > Ford. And Margaret Atwood, Steve Erickson, and Denis Johnson pop on and off the real-number line.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:53 AM on September 2, 2010


also, "Rick Moody is a pretentious asshole!" (via EmperorFranzen via FuzzyMonster)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:00 AM on September 2, 2010


I'm sick of is hearing about those two chick-lit women piggybacking on Franzen's hype by whining that no one takes their 14-book-long series of "Sex and the City" ripoffs as seriously as they take Franzen

Here's the conceit, Freedom is chick-lit. After finishing the book I see where they are coming from, though I think they come off as a bit self-aggrandizing jumping out the gate and accusing the media of only hyping Important White Men.

Jennifer Weiner was one of the authors who complained about the hype, so I went ahead and bought* her latest book, Fly Away Home. If I finish it and the thread is still open I'll post what I think, because I never before have read a book that was reviewed in Good Housekeeping (not kidding, look at the Amazon page).

*The Kindle edition is seriously only $2 cheaper than the hardback? Seriously? Lame. I should get the Kindle edition for free with the purchase of a hardback if you're going to price it like that.
posted by geoff. at 12:05 PM on September 4, 2010


OK, I finished it. tl:dr version: pretty good. I'm not exactly sure what "chick-lit" is (sounds derogatory and misogynistic), but I don't think Freedom is it. It's a fairly obvious critique of capitalism.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:34 PM on September 10, 2010


A few more notes before I forget about Freedom like I did with The Corrections.

1. Freedom is not about a middle-class family. All the characters, major and minor, are distinctly upper class, and I think that's very intentional. (I wasn't sure until the second autobiography, when Patty spends so much time discussing (and arbitrating) her family's finances.)

At its most basic, I think the novel examines the relationship between money and "freedom," variably defined by various characters and their actions.

2. Freedom is also very much about depression. Take out the near-futuristic setting and political/environmental developments of Infinite Jest, and it's the same old story--how do you live after you discover you can never be happy? Or what freedoms would you sacrifice for contentment and pleasure?

3. Freedom is VERY easy to read, and it's quite a page turner. Franzen tells a (restrained) story well, and entertains while doing so. IMO. His New Yorker article, which I really did not like, makes more sense now, even if I still don't agree.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:49 AM on September 13, 2010


An AP story that's been picked up and circulated online indicates that the final selection of Oprah's book club will be Franzen's Freedom.
So yes, it would be ironic if Oprah's last book club pick favored the very author that made her suspend her book club and ignore contemporary fiction for a time. Franzen? Really?

But it might also mark a reconciliation, a kind of bringing together of former literary antagonists in a generous move of closure for people who love books. And that would be so very Oprah.
posted by gladly at 11:06 AM on September 16, 2010


In additioin to Oprah, it has also received the very influential Obama endorsement.
posted by caddis at 6:45 AM on September 21, 2010


I'm about halfway through it now. So far, I hate it, but who knows, maybe it'll grow on me after I finish it.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:20 AM on September 21, 2010


So far, I hate it, but who knows, maybe it'll grow on me after I finish it.

Hm, doubtful. The best parts are the beginning and the end (I thought the first section was fantastic), but if you hate it now, you will continue to hate it.

The Atlantic Monthly:

Smaller Than Life: Jonathan Franzen's juvenile prose creates a world in which nothing important can happen

Huh. I must disagree. I think there are (many) valid criticisms of the book, but Myers misses them completely.

Still, a mature thought and a fine shading of sadness are conveyed here.

I found that really funny, because that was the one moment of the book when I thought "this part reads like it was written for a college workshop," you know, the one where you have to describe two identical scenes from two perspectives (mine was how a Little League trophy looked from the (potential) winner and then loser's perspective)

The fact that Myers mentions the fact that most of the characters don't work and that brand names are dropping casually, but she doesn't mention income, class, or wealth at all, makes me think that he/she totally whiffed here.

Either way, she is too stupid to merit reading about.

If stupid people weren't worth reading about, we'd be missing a heck of a lot of great fiction.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:23 AM on September 22, 2010


This time, Winfrey said she sent Franzen a note asking for his permission to feature his latest novel "because we have a little history."

Also, very classy, Oprah.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:25 AM on September 22, 2010


Some spot-on criticism from The Stranger.
posted by naju at 1:39 PM on September 22, 2010


Where is Franzen's David Foster Wallace–like ambition and inventiveness? You know he has it in him.

I do?
posted by Greg Nog at 1:58 PM on September 22, 2010


Anybody want to read Four Fingers of Death next? (trailer) I think it will be better ...
posted by mrgrimm at 2:36 PM on September 22, 2010


Some spot-on criticism from The Stranger.

I think Richard Ford is an apt comparison.

"About 20 years ago, Hollywood picked up this trope and ran away with it—American Beauty was the apex (or nadir) of the genre—and the best novelists have thankfully moved on, leaving the unhappy rich adulterous asshole genre to tired has-beens like Richard Ford. (This is not to say that books about unlikable characters are automatically bad; Martin Amis has built a lovely career out of it. But the assholes in Franzen's books are all assholes in the same way, and they are very similar to, if markedly more clever than, the assholes you'd find in a Ford whine-fest.)"

Heh. I'll disagree with his assessment of Richard Ford (ouch), but yeah, some good points there. Particularly:

Why is he that kid who graduates high school and then just keeps hanging around?

It's hard to "bemoan the state of serious literature" when "progress" is a dirty word.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:02 PM on September 22, 2010


FYI for DC folks:

"Headed to the National Book Festival this weekend? You can get in some one-on-one time with the fest's big draw, Jonathan Franzen, on Friday night when Politics and Prose hosts the author/birder at Lisner Auditorium for a reading and talk. The author of the bestselling novel "The Corrections" reads from and discusses his new novel, "Freedom." The best part: It's free. Doors open at 6 p.m."
posted by inigo2 at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2010


Hmm?
At the Jonathan Franzen talk at Southbank - he just said all copies of "Freedom" will be pulped - printers used old copy?!
No further confirmation as of this writing. --via William Gibson's Twitter feed.
posted by kipmanley at 1:56 PM on September 30, 2010


THAT explains why it was such a disappointment! It was the original crappy version!

THERE BETTER BE SPARKLING VAMPIRES IN THE NEXT PRINTING, FRANZEN
posted by Greg Nog at 2:16 PM on September 30, 2010


So do I now have a valuable collector's edition?

"Like new; read about 80 pages and lost interest"
posted by naju at 2:22 PM on September 30, 2010


TOP TEN CHANGES IN THE NEW EDITION OF FREEDOM

10. AMOUNTS OF JOEY BERGLUND'S EARNINGS ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION

9. ALL MENTIONS OF LALITHA NOW ACCOMPANIED BY PICTURES OF THE UNDERGRAD FRANZEN COULDN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT WHILE WRITING HER

8. GENUINE CERULEAN WARBLER PRESSED BETWEEN THE PAGES

7. PLOT IS NOW ABOUT THE VIDEOTAPE PATTY MADE CALLED "THE ENTERTAINMENT" AND HOW WATCHING IT MAKES YOU THE BEST BASKETBALL PLAYER EVER

6. RICHARD KATZ REPLACED WITH IRA GLATZ, THE PUBLIC RADIO HOST THAT ALL THE CHICKS SWOON OVER

5. EVERY EDITION COMES WITH SPECIAL CANVAS TOTE BAG THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HELP THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT AT LEAST IT'S GOT YOU THINKING ABOUT IT, THAT'S SOMETHING, RIGHT? THAT'S SOMETHING, AT LEAST?

4. THE BERGLUNDS RENAMED "THE PUMPERS" IN HONOR OF LEGENDARY PORN STAR BRIAN PUMPER

3. THE SICK CHELSEAS NO LONGER MARGINAL CHARACTERS, THEY WILL NOW BE A KICKY TEAM OF MYSTERY-SOLVING TEENAGED GIRLS

2. JESSICA'S FINAL PAPER AT SWARTHMORE TO BE INCLUDED: "MICHIGAN J. FROG: A SECULAR EXEGESIS FROM A POSTFEMINIST PERSPECTIVE"

1. YOU WANTED MORE PETTY SQUABBLING, IT'S GOT MORE PETTY SQUABBLING
posted by Greg Nog at 2:38 PM on September 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Greg Nog-jokes aside (#4 and #2 made me lol), it really would explain some things. I liked it, but "rough in spots" is a good euphemism+.

Judging by the lack of news stories, though, I'm guessing it's not true.

(I wanted Walter to be more of an ass. He was plenty of an ass, but I wanted to hate him.)

Here's the best review of Freedom I've read yet, a decidedly mixed one.
What has happened, I think, is that the public sphere is regarded here as a total loss, so that all the big problems are imagined as unsolvable. The result is a particular kind of despair, the sort that arises from rage with no outlet, the core emotion of a large proportion of educated readers during the George W. Bush administration. Corrupted by ruinous quantities of money and the cynical application of power, the public world depicted here seems incapable of saving anything of value. At every point where a citizen tries to enter that world, he encounters active lying and the operations of expedient logic, and, in the novel’s view, he becomes a collaborator. Franzen is not a conservative, but he is a conservationist, and his novel watches helplessly, ragingly, as cherished habitats, cherished beings, begin to disappear.
- 'His Glory and His Curse,' Charles Baxter, NYRB

I love that he picked out this (very non-Patty sounding) line, since it encapsulates so much of the book for me:

"There's a hazardous sadness to the first sounds of someone else's work in the morning; it's as if stillness experiences pain in being broken."
posted by mrgrimm at 3:19 PM on September 30, 2010


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