Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

8th September 2011

(Some of) The best parts of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen:

“Merrie, who was ten years older than Patty and looked every year of it, had formerly been active with the SDS in Madison and was now very active in the craze for Beaujolais nouveau.”

“She was a grave and silent little person with the disconcerting habit of holding your gaze unblinkingly, as if you had nothing in common.”

“… there was something congenitally undefended about Patty’s heart — she never ceased to be shocked by the sister’s lack of sisterliness.”

“The more time she spent with him, the more she was coming to feel that even though she wasn’t nice — or maybe because she wasn’t nice; because she was morbidly competitive and attracted to unhealthy things — she was, in fact, a fairly interesting person. And Walter, by insisting so fervently on her interestingness, was definitely making progress toward making himself interesting to her in turn.”

“‘He wasn’t nice to me,’ she said through tears. ‘And you’re the opposite of that. And I so, so, so need the opposite of that right now. Can you please be nice?’
‘I can be nice,’ he said, stroking her head.”

“…she was fully aware, from second to second to second, that it wasn’t a drug or a dream but just life happening to her, a life with only a present and no past…”

“Walter himself had great compassion for people attempting to be funny, and laughed loudly to reward them for their effort, and yet he instantly knew he wanted to be friends with the tall, unsmiling person.”

“She had all day every day to figure out some decent and satisfying way to live, and yet all she ever seemed to get for all her choices and all her freedom was more miserable.”

“… he loved Patty in some wholly other way, some larger and more abstract but nevertheless essential way that was about a lifetime of responsibility; about being a good person.”

“Taking a cab to the city center, she was pierced unexpectedly by regret for… not walking the streets as an independent adult woman, not cultivating an independent life, not being a sensible and curious tourist instead of a love-chasing madwoman.”

“Walter was frightened by the long-term toxicity they were crating with their fights. he could feel it pooling in ther marriage like the coal-sludge ponds in Appalachian valleys.”

“The pedestrians in every neighborhood all seemed to have taken the same dowdiness pills. As if individual style were a volatile substance that evaporated in the vacuity of D.D.’s sidewalks and infernally wide squares.”

“These were the first seconds in which he’d ever experienced anything like coldness from her; and they were dreadful. What he’d never understood about men in his position, in all the books he’d read and movies he’d seen about them, was clearer to him now: you couldn’t keep expecting wholehearted love without, at some point, requiting it. There was no credit to be earned for simply being good.”

Vocabulary

sui generis – unique or particular, constituting a class alone

cicatrix – new tissue that forms over a wound and later contracts into a scar.

uric – of, concerning, or derived from urine

passerine – of, belonging, or pertaining to the order Passeriformes, comprising more than half of all birds and typically having the feet adapted for perching.

necromancy – a method of divination through alleged communication with the dead; black art.

fetor – strong, offensive smell

16 thoughts on “Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

  1. Stephanie

    I really like how you pull lines and vocabulary out of the books you read. I often underline and look words up, but haven’t kept a log, of any kind. I think I will start doing that now.

    ‘Freedom’ is in my book stack, but I’m currently making my way through “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall.

  2. April

    I really liked this book a lot and I do the vocab thing, too. Also Democracy is on my nightstand right now!
    Stephanie, Born to Run is excellent!

  3. Michele

    Loved the book, but had plenty of friends that didn’t. Really enjoy how you break down the quotes and vocab! Have you read Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals? Hilarious and dictionary is required (it was our family read aloud and the kids fought over the dictionary). So hoping you will do a feature on Ahab’s Wife. Almost every page is quote-worthy and the dickers is a must have. If you have done a feature on AW please, please let me know!
    Really enjoying your blog.
    xoxo michele

  4. Meegan

    I’m reading this book right now. Only about 1/4 in. My husband powered through it on vacation and said while it’s no “Corrections” (we both LOVED) it was great. Nice to hear that you endorse it, too. And I’m so glad I had a pertinent vocab lesson!

  5. Ami

    Oh, I hated this book with the fire of a thousand burning sons. I still finished it…I kept thinking I’d find some redeeming quality to like about the book. And while I do appreciate Franzen’s talent for a good turn of phrase, overall I found the book just horrid. My whole book club did, and it was the only time we all universally agreed about a book.

  6. Wendy

    I enjoyed this book, not as much as “Corrections”, but any of Franzen’s novels have a way of pulling you in whether you like it or not. Mesmerizing.

  7. kate

    I loved this book! It was one I didn’t want to end. Now, going to check out My Family and Other Animals.

  8. The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful

    Okay, I’m in. Just finished reading Martin Amis’ “The Rachel Papers” as recommended by Design Mom and it was fabulous. I read Frantzen’s “The Corrections” which I found to be fabulously executed, but left me emotionally cold. So you’ve convinced me to try him again. YOU BETTER BE RIGHT!! (no pressure)

  9. Ilsa

    Loved the book and loved the lively discussion with my book group afterwords. Fascinating to read interviews with Franzen about writing it in the wake of David Foster Wallace’s suicide. He says the book is about finally growing up, which his friend’s suicide forced him to do.

  10. rachel b

    maggie — it was so lovely to strike up a quick conversation with you last night at the giftly launch party. also, i’m glad to find your site as well as find that i really enjoy your writing! i look forward to reading along, and perhaps i’ll run into you around the city again. have a great weekend! (ps: beautiful quotes from this book. pps: loved your hair last night. i thought that before we talked, but never said it. thank god for the interwebs and its allowance to redeem missed compliment opportunities.)


    Hi Rachel,
    So great to meet you and Garrett too! Let’s have coffee sometime, I don’t have enough woman engineers in my life. And thanks for the braids compliment, It was a last-ditch effort to avoid blow drying. -M

  11. Heidi

    My husband saw me reading this book and asked what it was about. I said “white people being assholes”. Hated it.

  12. Jen

    I cannot wait to read this book. I’m traveling now and the only copies I’ve found are enormous, not something I’m willing to lug around in my backpack.

    I also love how you “review” books. I’ve started to do the same. It’s a fun reminder of what you enjoyed about a book without feeling like a middle school book report.

  13. Andrea

    Seems like this book leaves people either hot or cold! I loved it, and found myself continually amazed by Franzen’s insight into human nature and character.

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