More ink has likely been expended on Freedom (by Jonathan Franzen) than on any other book in the U.S. this year.
Even the high priestess of American TV Oprah Winfrey has given her imprimatur to the novel naming it to her much followed Oprah’s Book Club – 2010 Selection.
Given so many adulatory reviews for the book, it was no surprise that our curiosity would be piqued to see what the noise was all about.
We picked up the book from the library and having completed it, our reaction is WOW!
But talking to all ye desi dickheads about a classic work like Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is akin to flinging pearls before the proverbial swine.
What interest do you schmucks who genuflect at the altar of Nayantara, Aamir Khan, SRK, Akki and other assorted clowns have in high art or literature.
Still, in the faint hope that we may wean at least a few of you yokels from your drivel diet we write this post.
An Epic Saga of the Berglunds
We haven’t read as fine a work as Freedom in years.
All 562 pages of it.
In turns mocking, sarcastic, funny, tragic and matter of fact, Franzen writes an epic story with a deft hand.
Microcosm of America
Franzen is a master storyteller and he weaves an engrossing tale of an American family.
Spanning several decades, Freedom is the account of Walter and Patty Berglund and those in their orbit.
Their love, their marriage, their sex, their infidelities, their trials, their tribulations, their younger days, their depressions, their tragedies, their children, their politics, their friends, their parents, their siblings, their anxieties, their joys, their sorrows, their music, their sports, their petty squabbles, their generous natures, all of it Franzen tackles with great verve and gusto.
But Freedom is more than just about the Berglunds of Minnesota.
For the Berglund family is in a sense a microcosm of the lives of countless families in present America.
An America fueled by consumerism, addicted to gasoline and careening on a path of self-destruction. An America where the few good men can only watch in silent fury as wanton greed, wanton environmental rampage, wanton corruption and wanton self-indulgence goes unchecked.
And Franzen, to our great delight, takes plenty of shots at what he, we and most sensible people consider wrong in the country today.
In our not-so-humble view, great works of fiction are strongly rooted in their times, paint a vivid portrait of their overall milieu and grow their characters in a familiar terrain. In this respect, Freedom is a tour de force.
And for all the desis there’s Lalitha, the ‘dark-skinned….round-eyed, round-faced, round-breasted‘ pretty Bengali girl from Missouri who came to America from her native India at a young age.
Passionate about the environment, the population explosion (so much that she asks Walter on one occasion if she should have her tubes tied) and above all about Walter, our Bengali babe Lalitha is quite an interesting character. If we close our eyes, we can see this beguiling charmer weaving her magic on us just as she cast her net over Walter.
Is Lalitha the typical ABCD (American Born Confused Desi)? Probably not. For she’s far too passionate in more ways than your typical 28-year-old desi woman in the U.S.
Freedom is certainly a work that was years in the making.
Deservedly, the book has earned uniformly rave reviews in the U.S.
Not to read a master work like Freedom would be a sin, a dereliction. Surely, every county and town library in the U.S. has Freedom. Reserve your copy now.
You can be sure that it won’t be long before we pick up Franzen’s previous work Corrections soon.