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Tag: Jonathan Franzen (1-4 of 4)

This might hurt: Which Jonathan Franzen character are you?

Mindy-KalingImage Credit: Bob Charlotte/PR PhotosWhich Star Wars character do you most identify with? Which superhero would you be? These are fun, frivolous games to play while killing time with the kids in the car on your way to the in-laws (hopefully not in St. Jude). But then there’s this question, suggested by The Office‘s Mindy Kaling, who tweeted: “The Jonathan Franzen character I’m most like is Abigail, Patty’s sister in Freedom. Which Franzen character are you most like?”

Can’t I just say Han Solo and turn on some talk radio? Because I just completed the double whammy of Franzen’s recent best-seller Freedom and his devastating 2001 novel, The Corrections, and there’s not one character in 1,152 pages that I’d publicly wrap my arms around. READ FULL STORY

Jonathan Franzen says his British publisher screwed up, printing an early draft of 'Freedom'

Jonathan Franzen reportedly told an audience in London last night that his British publisher, HarperCollins, printed the wrong computer file instead of his final draft. The company—which is disputing the error—is nonetheless reprinting the book, with new editions available on Monday.

Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom': EW Shelf Life Book Club

In the month or so since Freedom has come out, it’s been obscured by all the baggage surrounding it: the hype, the reviews, the controversy, the whole Oprah thing. We’ve sort of lost sight of the novel itself, and that’s too bad. I don’t, like some reviewers, think it’s one of the best novels of the year (let alone the “novel of the century,” as one newspaper called it). To me it’s one of those big, old-fashioned novels, the kind you can really lose yourself in, the very opposite of the spare and bloodless kind of fiction so in style these days.

But. First things first. What I liked most about Freedom was Franzen’s ability to paint a portrait of a marriage. The opening pages–setting the stage, penciling in Walter and Patty Berglund in broad strokes that grow ever finer and more detailed–were, I thought, almost compulsively readable. I was sucked right in. But then Franzen did a couple of things that knocked the novel off its tracks for me.

First, he inserted that lonnnnggggggg autobiography Patty wrote at the behest of her therapist. I get why he did it; as readers, we need historical detail to place Patty in context. And at least it’s more creative than using a flashback, possibly the most tired & overworked literary element there is. But did the memoir throw anyone else for a loop? For one thing, it was written in that jarring (for me, anyway) third-person. And for another…I didn’t buy it. It didn’t sound like Patty we’d come to know in only a few short pages; it sounded like Franzen. (“Based on her inability to recall her state of consciousness in her first three years at college, the autobiographer suspects she simply didn’t have a state of consciousness.”) Thoughts?

After Patty’s memoir, Franzen gave, basically, third-person accounts of the marriage from three different people: Patty’s best friend Richard Katz; Walter and Patty’s son Joey; and finally, Walter himself. Okay, fine. So what’s missing here? Or, rather, who’s missing? I’d argue that it’s the one person who’s curiously absent from the entire book: Walter and Patty’s daughter Jessica. If you’re describing a marriage and a family through different viewpoints as Franzen is–and he’s going to a lot of trouble to do so–it seems odd, and wrong, to leave someone out. Anyone else agree? Or am I alone on this one?

About some of the other criticism heaped on Franzen, eh. I don’t mind that the novel is occasionally blowsy and overdone, or that a good hundred pages probably could have been whacked in the editing process. I loved the dialogue, the descriptions, the lush language. How about the rest of you? If you’ve finished Freedom, do you like it? How do you  think it compares to The Corrections? And please, weigh in on the issue of Patty’s memoir and Jessica’s omission from the plot. I’m curious to know what people think.

Oprah absolves Jonathan Franzen and picks 'Freedom' for the Book Club

Jonathan-FranzenImage Credit: Janet Mayer/PR Photos; Joe Kohen/Getty ImagesFor all the myriad words to describe Oprah Winfrey, predictable is certainly not one of them. A couple of weeks back, I presumptively quipped that the Queen of All Media would almost certainly not choose Jonathan Franzen’s new book for her Book Club, based on the “feud” the two had back in 2001. But, true to form, it looks like Oprah has surprised us all, choosing Freedom, his latest, as her first Book Club pick in nearly a year. While it won’t be officially announced until tomorrow, the AP reports that three separate book-sellers have confirmed the new pick.

For those who don’t remember the literary kerfuffle from nine years ago, Franzen had made somewhat disparaging remarks about the Club after Oprah named his novel, The Corrections, as her latest selection, which then led to Oprah rescinding the invitation to appear on her show. I can only imagine that after this display of Oprah’s capacity for forgiveness, James Frey is waiting in the wings with apology flowers and a box of chocolates.

UPDATE: Oprah officially announced today, incidentally 14 years to the day after announcing her first selection, that Freedom will indeed be her next pick, saying, “From the very first chapter, I declared it a tour de force.”

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