Is it necessary to read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom to have opinions about it? Washington City Paper’s Moe Tkacik went to the trouble of reading both the novel and political critics’ accounts of the novel, and
the resulting cross-comparison is an epic in its own right
[David] Brooks manages to pack nine material misstatements about the book’s plot into a mere 73 words:
There’s almost no religion.(1) There’s very little about the world of work(2) and enterprise.(3) There’s an absence of ethnic heritage(4), military service(5), technical innovation(6), scientific research(7) or anything else potentially lofty and ennobling.
Richard is an artist, but we don’t really see the artist’s commitment to his craft(8). Patty is an athlete, but we don’t really see the team camaraderie(9) that is the best of sport.
Now, what is truly brilliant about the above is that every single one of those things is either a dominant theme or a conspicuous subtext of Freedom (and you can scroll down to see my detailed annotations if you really care.) It makes you wonder why Brooks didn’t just go ahead and add “the inimitable joys of semi-functional family life” to the list!
Does Franzen have a hotline to the editors of the New York Times, the way
? Or are Brooks’ literary opinions classified as uncheckable?