Sunday, 21 November 2010

Jonathan Franzen - Freedom

This book is actually not that good looking. And it is a classic ‘high-concept’ book and the concept is obviously freedom, our hunt for it and the attempts to maintain it.

“Where did the self-pity come from? The inordinate volume of it? By almost any standard, she led a luxurious life. She had all day to figure out some decent and satisfyingwayto live, and yet all she ever seemed to get for all her choices and all her freedom was more miserable.” (Franzen, 2010, p.181).

“People came to this country for either money or freedom. If you don’t have money, you cling to your freedom all the more angrily. Even if smoking kills you, even if you can’t afford to feed your kids, evenif our kids are getting shot down by maniacs with assault rifles. You may be poor, but the one thing noboday can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.” (Franzen, 2010, p.361).

The book shows how this leads to avoiding and doubting any commitment and the constant urge to try out more options in life. Thereby we are never happy with the life we are leading. This simply concept is then blown up with stories from theBerglund family over 500 pages.

Towards the end, the book presents a solution as simple as the problem posed: commitment.

“There is, after all, a kind of happiness in unhappiness, if it’s the right unhappiness. Gene no longer had to fear a big disappointment in the future in the future, because he’d already accomplished it; he’d cleared that hurdle.” (Franzen, 2010, p.447).

This solution then leads to a simple, rather dull Hollywood happy ending. If we all commit ourselves to something, anything, preferably private, everyone’s home will be a great place.

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