Friday, September 17, 2010

Freedom - A Mini-review

I've been enjoying reading Jonathan Frantzen's new novel, Freedom (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2010), but it has not lived up to expectations. Having not read any of Frantzen's earlier works (including the much-lauded The Corrections), I felt compelled to read Freedom because of the extraordinary hype it received from very respectable sources, including a review in the New York Times (here), which referred to it as a "masterpiece of American fiction." Oprah (admittedly a less reputable judge of literature) has just issued a similar proclamation (here) in choosing Freedom as the first selection of her new book club.

With all due respect to Oprah and the New York Times, I'm inclined to agree with this new review of Freedom in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which describes the book as a minor work of "juvenile prose," featuring minor characters to whom nothing important can happen. Having said that, it's a fun read, which is more than I can say about a lot of modern American fiction. Had the book, and its author, not been so over-hyped, I might even be inclined to write a modestly positive review. Frantzen is a good, not a great, writer (certainly nowhere near as good as, say, Richard Powers). And Freedom is an entertaining, if somewhat pedestrian, work of modern-American fiction.

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