I'm still looking forward to reading Jonathan Franzen's upcoming novel Freedom, although this critique from NPR sounds all too familiar:
... despite the brilliance, or maybe even because of it, I found the novel quite unappealing, maybe because every line, every insight, seems covered with a light film of disdain. Franzen seems never to have met a normal, decent, struggling human being whom he didn't want to make us feel ever so slightly superior to. His book just has too much brightness and not enough color.
Thinking back on the two excerpts from this novel that have been published in the New Yorker, I can definitely see what the reviewer means. Franzen satirizes his protagonist, Patty Berglund, pretty sharply in "Bad Neighbors," along with every other character in the piece. Yet even though "Agreeable" certainly stands aloof from its events and showers its characters with the film of disdain mentioned in the review, I thought I detected in that snippet the possibility of some real empathy for Patty, a desire to understand her as a human being—which I hope comes to greater fruition in the novel as a whole.
I guess I'll have to wait and see for myself.