first thoughts on franzen

It’s rare that I start a book with no preconceived notions – no idea of what it’s about, or how much I might like it.  But this was the case with Jonathan’s Franzen’s Freedom.  I came across it as a downloadable audio option with the vague sense that Franzen is someone I should be reading — he seems to be one of the most discussed authors of recent years.  After finishing my recent revisit to Jane Eyre, I opted for Freedom as my next listen.

There’s no doubt that Franzen is a remarkable writer with a knack for understated social commentary. I’m maybe 10% of the way into the book, but this is already clearly evident.  He doesn’t pull any punches, but just jumps into a no-nonsense description of Patty and Walter Berglund, the couple whom our story revolves around, creating a clear picture of them and their life — their good intentions, their struggles with their son, conflicts with their neighbors — as an objective observer might.  The thing about this perspective, though, is that I don’t really develop any sort of attachment to the characters.  And maybe I’m not supposed to; that impersonal point of view gives me the sense that this is pretty intentional.  But while I appreciate the skill of the storyteller in the moment I’m listening to it, the draw to return to the story is not particularly strong. It’s the type of book that I can see myself having every intention of finishing but then getting distracted somewhere along the way, pulled into a different book in which I feel invested in the characters.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I only started this a couple of days ago, and I do, in fact, have every intention of finishing it, though I’m not yet sure yet whether I’ll stay with it on audio or switch to a paper version.  And there’s always the chance that as I get further into the book, the character attachment will begin to develop.  And if you’ve read any Franzen, let me know if you think these early impressions are spot on, or if I’m going to be surprised as I move forward.

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~ by Molly on May 6, 2011.

One Response to “first thoughts on franzen”

  1. […] new installments come out.  My final impressions of Freedom weren’t terribly different than my initial ones.  A few of the characters did become more sympathetic, but never quite likable, and I didn’t […]

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