Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I might have gotten to the party an hour or two late, but at least I didn't miss it. I'm speaking in code, because I am so flummoxed and overwhelmed by a recent read. Over the past 4 days I greedily binged on Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I spent my spare moments in the lives of Patty and Walter Berglund. I hung onto every one of Franzen's words, allowing his observations about marriage, love, childrearing, American society, technology, and the environment to really get in, and then accepting the itch that comes along with it. It was the kind of book that makes you examine your own life, because the book is an exploration of everything. And like all great art it makes you think. It almost felt like the book was written just for me, which makes me realize that we all are trying to figure out what it means to be a person and live a life. I think that's what makes us human. Everyone has their own stuff to deal with, their own miseries, errors, and injustices, and our response to it is what makes up our lives. Of course, amidst it is freedom and acceptance and triumph- the good stuff. Sharp and unflinching observations on humanity and it's trappings go down much easier when the words are smooth and seamless. There were sentences of description or dialogue that glittered with beauty and truth. My favorite: "Humanity coming at him from every direction. Andean musicians piping and drumming in Union Square.....A pair of fur-coated ladies ballsily appropriating a cab that Casey hailed outside Bloomingdale's. Tres hot middle-school girls wearing jeans under miniskirts and slouching on the subway with legs open. Cornrowed ghetto kids in ominous jumbo parkas, National Gaurd troops patrolling Grand Central with highly advanced weapons. And the Chinese grandmother hawking DVD's of films that hadn't even opened yet, the break dancer who ripped a muscle or a tendon and sat rocking in pain on the floor of the 6 train..................each encounter was like a poem he instantly memorized"
The author created a universe in 642 pages. How does someone do that and still live in their physical world? Maybe they do it by living so observantly in their physical world? Maybe it's just a double sided gift? Whatever it is, it is contained in Jonathan Franzen, and he shares some of it with the world.

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