'freedom' is an amusingly 'hip' novel.

I’ve roughly 150 pages to go, and, thus far, as far as I remember off the top of my head after midnight on a Friday night (Saturday morning), Franzen has mentioned Natalie Portman, Blackberries, texting v. e-mailing and how Blackberries basically mean e-mailing = readily accessible = fancy upgraded sort of ‘texting,’ and Bright Eyes.  And not only did he mention Bright Eyes, he expounded upon Bright Eyes via Walter Berglund for a good, solid page or two.

As expected, Franzen surprises me with the extent to which I absolutely loathe and detest his characters.  The one redeemable soul in this dramatic cast is Richard Katz, and, even then, I wonder if that isn’t merely because he’s a rock star or if it truly is that he is likeable, even when taken away from the context of a high-strung, overwrought, drunk-on-self-pity-and-self-righteousness bunch of neuroses.  Nonetheless, despite loathing them all, I cannot stop reading, and it isn’t that I’m four hundred pages in and must complete the novel for the sake of the time and effort I’ve thus invested, but that, truly, Franzen has a way with words and dismantling the despicable aspects of humanity and laying them out to make you wonder, Is this just the way you choose to present the world, or is mankind truly this damnable?

re: jonathan franzen

Every so often (or very rarely), I stumble upon a book that compels me to plough through the author’s entire backlog until I am one or two books short of completion (the thought of having read an author’s entire backlog saddens me).  This has happened exactly twice before — first with Ian McEwan and then with Haruki Murakami — (and I’ve meant to do this with Ishiguro), but it’s been a while since an author has compelled me so until recently.

Jonathan Franzen is one of those authors I resisted because of all the attention buzzing around him.  (McEwan was the same; I refused to read Atonement because of the buzz; and, then, I picked it up, read it, and ploughed through 90% of his backlog.)  I mean, I liked him; Franzen is articulate, witty, and charming; and I enjoyed hearing him speak when he came to the LAPL Aloud program last September despite the insipid woman who was supposed to be ‘in conversation with’ him.  But as far as picking up his writing went — that didn’t happen until January of this year when I took the plunge and picked up The Corrections.  And, may I confess, I might have been all shades of blue and grey the whole way through, but I’ve been on a Franzen spree since.  (And I dare say I do prefer his nonfiction over his fiction, but that statement isn’t meant to depreciate the value of his fiction any.)

It helps that his backlog isn’t as extensive as either McEwan’s or Murakami’s, and I’m only one book short as far as possession goes.  I’ll read Freedom now, then The Twenty-Seventh City, then Strong Motion, and then I’ll be done — or I say I’ll read all three, and I will eventually, but chances are that I’ll read Freedom and probably The Twenty-Seventh City because I have a habit where I must read all my favourite authors’ first novels (if so available — unfortunately, Murakami’s isn’t available in English translation) then stow Strong Motion away for later so that I’ll have a ‘new’ Franzen to read later on.


Currently reading Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, which is depressing but written in such a way that I cannot put it down despite it sapping me of hope in the future of humanity and the nuclear family.  Franzen is indeed a skilled writer; his narrative voice lends itself to a pleasant rhythm when read out loud; and I continue to be enamoured with and intrigued by this American literary figure who holds such rock star status and had his glasses stolen off his face and held hostage

there's something about these books that really ought to be read during the day ...

… that manifests a desire to be read after midnight once everyone else is asleep.

Battle Royale, now that I’m roughly a third into it, is nauseating, as one would expect, not so much for blood or gore but for the story concept of sending middle school students into an arena to kill each other, all in attempts to control the population.  (Even now, I wonder how The Hunger Games managed not to be so sickening.)  As far as writing goes, it’s neither brilliant nor terrible prose; it’s sparsely and matter-of-factly written; and it works because a more elaborate or heavy-handed prose style would detract from the other values of the book, particularly as a portrait of humanity’s instinct to survive.  If Battle Royale is anything, it’s an excellent study of the human condition in an oppressed and conformative society (arguably allegorical to Japanese society and educational system), and the years have alienated me enough from the film* that I can appreciate the book fully for its own merit instead of drawing comparisons in my head.

Now.  If only I would read this during the day and not after midnight becase I literally had to put a thirty-minute buffer of You Are Beautiful between reading Battle Royale and going to sleep in attempts to keep the bloody nightmares at bay.  Lucky for me, however, I was so exhausted that my dreams are but hazy feelings that won’t be retrieved from the peripheries of my memories.

(*As far as I remember, the film was good, though I will not be watching it again any time soon to confirm my dusty memories.)

everywhere, anywhere, nowhere: book talk.

  • Roland Barthes’ Mourning Diary is written in snippets of thoughts rarely extending more than a few lines each, and it’s a small volume, stocky and sturdy, by looks deceptive because it’s harder to get through than some novels.  Glimpsing into someone’s grief is no easy feat, and I’ve found that this is a book I keep by my Mac and dip into every once in a while when I find my senses becoming dull, absorbing only a few pages at a time before setting it aside again.
  • One of my housemates is an exchange student from Japan, and I noticed on Friday night that she had Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore on her shelf.  Naturally, I had to ask if she’d read him and if she’d read his new novel, and she replied that, yes, she had, all three volumes of it.  The only response I could offer to that was a sigh of envy; 1Q84 doesn’t reach Stateside in English translation until fall 2012; and Murakami Haruki is one of the authors for whom I desire to learn Japanese.
  • Late last week, I broke into my shiny new copy of Demons but am wondering if I should put this one (and other currently readings) on pause for now and focus solely on my current reread of Anna Karenina.  Maybe instead of tackling Proust over the holidays, I’ll aim for Demons and The Brothers Karamazov … all the while sipping heavenly espresso and chowing down meatball subs in San Francisco?  Or pizza slices in Manhattan?  Ought I hoard hopes for potential jaunts to more homey corners of the world this holiday season?