Free Pass

Trying to separate the art from the artist is difficult for everyone, and I'm no different. I've been avoiding reading any of Jonathan Franzen's work, because every single thing I've ever read or saw of him has lead me to the same conclusion: "What a supercilious prick." This thought was always followed by a slight pang of guilt, because I judge him on such slim evidence, and who am I to completely dismiss his work, just because he rubs me the wrong way?

Well, thank the heavens I don't have to feel that way anymore, because a copy of his novel Freedom fell into my lap, and after reading it, I can judge to my heart's content. It was everything my preconceived notions suggested it would be. Ostensibly, it's about an upper-middle-class family and their constant struggles to maintain their ideals and relationships. In actuality, it's page after page of smug, selfish characters pissing each other off because they're all smug and selfish.

There isn't one worthy person in the bunch, and as I forced myself through each chapter, any hope that there would be some breakthrough in the story was swiftly torpedoed. Every time someone actually threatened to grow as a character, they would soon sink right back down into their default mode of blithe self-satisfaction. I have no idea why Franzen is hailed as some great, modern American novelist, when the lesson I learned from this book is that the only kind of character he can write is a reflection of himself. What a supercilious prick.

Freedom: C-


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