Thursday, May 27, 2010

Franzen, Freedom

The second excerpt from Jonathan Franzen's forthcoming novel Freedom is just as piquant as the first (which I wrote about here). In this one, titled "Agreeable," Franzen narrates a searing adolescent episode in the life of Patty (who, as an adult, is a central character in the other excerpt), an episode that cements her estrangement from her family.

Judging by his memoir The Discomfort Zone, Franzen is not someone who's experienced a lot of family love. Perhaps for that reason, he is expert at anatomizing familial dysfunction.

In this passage, Patty's mother talks with her about how her father will respond to a difficult and painful experience Patty's recently had:

“He’ll want to do whatever’s best for you. Sometimes it’s hard for him to express it, but he loves you more than anything.”

Joyce could hardly have made a statement that Patty more fervently longed to believe was true. Wished, with her whole being, were true. Didn’t her dad tease her and ridicule her in ways that would have been simply cruel if he didn’t secretly love her more than anything? But she was seventeen now and not actually dumb. She knew that you could love somebody more than anything and still not love the person all that much, if you were busy with other things.

"Agreeable" is a devastating piece of fiction, one that's left me eager to read the novel in its entirety when it comes out in August.


Kate in Chicago said...

I read both his stories Saturday morning, and that led to a couple very quiet, contemplative hours for me. I want to read The Corrections now, and I am ready to be piquanted. (I liked that word, and I'm making it an adjective. I think that word could be used now after watching "District 9." I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.) I read the story of Patty as an adult second, and I remember mostly her neighbors saying she doesn't know "how to live." I immediately thought of your using those words to describe teaching.

Kate in Chicago said...

Wait, it's already an adjective. I mean verb.

A-Z said...

You can read the two released excerpts from Jonathan Franzen's FREEDOM in the New Yorker or read the excerpts reviews in The Excerpt Reader's blog