Honestly, when I was younger, I would’ve rather shoved a potato peeler up my ass than leave a book unfinished once I’d started it. Even if by page 400 it became readily apparent that it was written by a retarded Bonobo on LSD out to warp my immortal soul, no, by God, I would huff and puff through that mofo, cursing every word, but determined to make it to the bitter end, and I would, I always did….
Which means I have logged hundreds and hundreds of hours reading football-fields of prose that left me absolutely cold and one thing turning 30 has taught me, oh this long decade, is?
That life is waaaay too fucking short. If a book is torturing you–don’t torture yourself back.
Put it down.
At 100 pages, give or take a few, I am putting J. Franzen’s ‘Freedom’ down.
I will not torture myself anymore.
Supposedly, the book received a lot of lit. hype. Supposedly, some people who know books claimed that this was a Tolstoyean epic of our time. I don’t read high-profile NYT book reviews, so I can neither confirm nor deny these allegations, all I know is that I’m past page 100 and I have yet to meet a single character who I don’t want to shoot point-blank in the face with a Kalashnikov.
The characters are every American you’ve ever met crushed under their bourgeoisie guilt and their baggage and their baggage and their sucky, sucky life. If an alien picks up this book in 1000 years to use as some window into the soul of our current society, they would conclude that life in America is nothing but a slow, steady march towards inevitable disillusionment and auto-destruction. A lifelong dog-paddle before inevitable drowning in a sea of douch-bags.
What I hate about it most is how Franzen forces you down that path–Neither you nor his characters are allowed respite.
It would be one thing if the characters he mutilates are at least interesting or sympathetic, but he hates them, which makes me hate them, and reading about these hateful people when I was not being forced to made me hate myself. I thought: Moof. You signed up for the Bataan Death March with some of the most banal and unpleasantest folk you ever had the pleasure of never contacting again after high school.
There is no joy in ‘Freedom’.
There is no beauty in ‘Freedom’.
There is no love in ‘Freedom.’
There are some pretty words and pretty sentences, but getting tazed is getting tazed, even if your torturer has access to a good thesaurus.
::runs screaming into the safe arms of Phillip Roth::