Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reading "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen, Pt 2

I'm now about 200 pages into Franzen's novel and while I have mostly overcome the feeling of experiencing the story through a sheet of glass because of the emotional distance Franzen creates with his choices in narrative technique (see this post if you've not already), I am still finding myself sort of being resisted by the text. The characters are interesting, the story is engaging and Franzen's prose is fine, but I have noticed that there is no variation in tone. The mood remains the same all the time, and so I am not getting from this book the feeling of movement I wish I was. Mr. Franzen, you are making me work a bit more than I feel is necessary here. And I don't mean "work" in a "the reader is challenged intellectually or aesthetically and must overcome his prejudices or lack of experience with formal experimentation" or anything like that. I just mean that there's no variation in the tone of the book and so, after a while, I sort of feel like I've been running in place all this time and getting nowhere. The general tone of the narrative, even during Patty's autobiographical sections, is one of journalism, of observer, and I realize that my difficulty with Franzen's text remains one of emotional distance from the story. So, huh.

Still, I don't want to put the book down, so perhaps I should find some nice things to say about "Freedom" to explain why I keep reading. Possibly in my next post. Right now, I'm a bit frazzled from working this job o' mine, to which I must now return. Adieu, adieu, adieu.

6 comments:

  1. Right now I'm reading "Sh!t My Dad Says" and it is a very different experience from the one you are describing...

    ReplyDelete
  2. That jogging in place feeling is thing I just can't get past when I'm reading. I will slog through a lot of BS in a book, but when I feel like I am working hard to stay in place, I usually break down.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I felt the same way when I read Jody Picoult's MERCY. I couldn't understand why I wasn't really resonating with the characters. Now I know why. Thanks for explaining it to me. Her tone was flat. SO flat.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I look forward to hearing why you keep reading. There must be something compelling in there.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm reading Freedom too, Scott and I think you're right on the money with your assessment.

    I think the lack of variation is a consequence of the narrative distance. Like you said though, Franzen makes up for it big time.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mayowa: Thanks for commenting! Hey, how do I follow your new blog? Is there some button I click somewhere, or what? I'm never sure when you've posted and I am too lazy and disorganized, to be honest, to actually go to your site and look for myself.

    ReplyDelete