I have to admit that after reading three Toni Morrison books in a row, which I just did last month, any author or book that follows is going to have a rough time convincing me Toni Morrison isn’t the best author in the history of the planet.
But I started reading FREEDOM, by Jonathan Franzen, after finishing Morrison’s, JAZZ, and it wasn’t easy to switch gears. This has nothing to do with Franzen’s style or his book. It’s just that Franzen is so different from Toni Morrison it was hard not to compare the two authors. The easy part was I’m a fan of Franzen’s CORRECTIONS, so I’ve been looking forward to seeing what Franzen has been up to in the last ten years.
Right now I’m halfway through FREEDOM. (I know no one gives halfway reviews, but it’s a long book and it’s my blog so I can do whatever I want here.) I’ve read Patty’s autobiography, I’ve watched her transition from a young adult to a college student to a housewife and mother. I’ve seen Walter and Richard through their ups and downs. And I’ve read about Joey’s kinky little escapades with phone sex and observed his peculiar little wench of a girlfriend. And if I had to rate FREEDOM on amazon right now, I can safely say I’d give it five stars without even knowing the ending.
I wouldn’t rate it this way because I love the characters. In this particular case, I don’t think I’ve ever despised characters in a book quite this way before. They are vapid, self-indulgent, and absolutely fascinating in all their dullness. I’m not even sure I can explain this clearly, but I actually love them because I hate them so much. These characters are everything for which I do not stand and never will stand. The only character with whom I can remotely relate is Joey, because he seems so eager all the time.
And right now, though I can’t even begin to predict the ending, I couldn’t recommend this book more to anyone looking for good fiction. I also like Jonathan Franzen’s writing style. I’ve seen reviews of FREEDOM where readers have blasted his dialogue. But I disagree. I like the way he pulls it off, and I can’t help wondering which character Franzen is most like. If I had to guess I’d say he really wants to be like Richard, in reality people see him more as Walter, but deep down, he’s all Joey.