Reviewing Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” with Wit

Everywhere you turn, there’s a review of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom. Most appear in print, and they’re buttoned down. Not this one. It’s a little different. The video above features Ron Charles, The Washington Post’s fiction critic, taking his own approach.

Speaking of Franzen and book reviews: Franzen appeared on San Francisco radio earlier this week. And the conversation was moving along quite smoothly until Franzen was asked about Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times book critic. That’s when the knives came out. You can catch the comments below at the 33:20 mark…

[gplayer href="http://www.kqed.org/.stream/anon/radio/forum/2010/09/2010-09-13b-forum.mp3" ] Jonathan Franzen Interviewed on KQED Forum. September 13, 2010 [/gplayer]

Thanks Malena for the tip!



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  1. Shelley says . . . | September 16, 2010 / 1:42 pm

    I haven’t yet read Freedom and my work is very different from his, but I had an ambivalent response to his comments on Kakutani: I couldn’t decide if it was good that he was willing to say something risky, or if it just lowered the discourse.

    Dunno.

  2. Kristine says . . . | September 16, 2010 / 3:46 pm

    What Ron Charles says about the section in which Patty is supposedly writing in her own voice but cannot be differentiated from Franzen’s own voice is dead on! I’m at that part of the book now and every time I pick it up to read again it takes me awhile before I realize the words are supposed to be Patty’s words.

    Other than that, I am really enjoying the book. I’m biased though, being from Minnesota I get extra enjoyment from the local references.

  3. Bron says . . . | November 17, 2010 / 2:56 am

    Enjoyed reading “Freedom” but ultimately felt “So what?”..just more “Desperate Housewives” gussied up with eco/politially correct frills. Comparisons to Dickens are really a bit of a stretch.

  4. Mike says . . . | November 26, 2010 / 11:14 am

    It’s really sad to see how warmly this book has been welcomed by people who think of themselves as liberals.

    This book is not liberal in any meaningful sense. It argues that there is ‘too much liberty’ and links this to poor people breeding too much – in an acceptable way of course (the poor people are Republican-voting trailer trash, so, y’know, it’s okay to hate them).

    Reading people like Franzen, you start to understand how writers like D H Lawrence and GB Shaw years ago could call themselves socialists and still advocate eugenics. Once you come to really believe in the stupidity of worthlessness of those who disagree with you, anything becomes acceptable.

  5. JT says . . . | January 9, 2011 / 9:34 pm

    I’m not a huge fan of Franzen’s, but I have to agree with him about Kakutani. She’s just abominable, and has gotten worse (more screechy, more self-important, more predictable and more tone deaf) over the years. I haven’t read any NYT weekday book reviews since Richard Eder left.

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