I remember how impressed I was with Franzen’s ‘The Corrections’ when it came out and thought ‘Twenty Seventh City’ was fairly ok so I thought I would give this a go. It’s been on my list since its release last year due to the fact that it seemed to be a book that had divided critics and readers alike in either loving or hating it. A lot of the professional criticswere gushing over it saying it was the best thing ever, but others were saying it was dull and over-hyped. Only one way to find out!
The title of the book is Franzen being ironic, as the whole book details how supposed “Liberty” in the modern world usually, on closer analysis, seems to snarl us up not free us up, and distracts us from the important things in life. The main story starts charts the tale of three people who met while at University in the late 1970’s and takes us through their lives, jobs, loves, and families concluding in the post 9/11 uncertainty and in some case’s paranoia that many Americans went through regarding who they were and what their place was in the grand scheme of things.
The characters are great and Franzen’s swipe at how misguided America (and the rest of the western world) has become is razor sharp. He take no prisoners when detailing some of the profit driven foreign policies of the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11, the selfish consuming and use of the earth’s resources for instant gratification that all of us are guilty of, and also he shows (as he also did in his book ‘The Corrections’) a great understanding of the grudges and adversarial jealousy that can be a big part of families.
His spot on observations on modern living and the banality of material greed are on a par with some of Tom Wolfe’s later stuff like ‘I Am Charlotte Simmons’. A good read, and just going on his progression of talent between books so far I’m sure we have even better to come from JF.