Thursday, September 30, 2010


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $22.40)

REVIEW!: The joy one feels while reading a book this good for the first time is is its own contagion, a transmitter of I-need-to-read-that, and you see on the face of every last person who's picked up. Having just finished it myself, I've already wished a thousand times over that I could wipe my memory clean so that I might start it again, fresh to its superior everything.

's greatest attribute, however, is its lack of hubris, for which Franzen should be heavily applauded. His writing is pitch-perfect in a world before pitch, back when caveman stabbed each other with rocks to communicate. It is deft but void of pomp or show, and seamlessly builds a looping narrative about an average-ish midwestern family that flows along so smoothly it might be locked into the well oiled grooves of a Six Flags water coaster. Many sentences are so shining they seem worth, if not just a jotting down, then oral ingestion. (But you may get sick, in that case). Quickly: it's the story of the Berglunds, once-happy gentrifiers, bike-commuters, seed planters, and so on, whose lives have somehow fallen out of joint. Happy youth gone, they suddenly wake to world where their son is living next door with his girlfriend and a man who's truck reads "I'm white and I vote," and putting himself through college, while Patty, the wife, consorts with a bottle of wine a night and lusts after her husband's college roommate, Richard Katz, and her husband, Walter, encourages mountaintop removal in rural West Virginia for the cause of songbirds. A rich commentary on all manner of topics (a crumbling environment, Love, Story, urban environment, friendship, parenting, politics, etc.) throbs through the narrative and is both even-handed and morally acute; perspective is one of Franzen's favorite currencies to deal in. READ IT SOOON

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Paul Auster is a great author, and now a man of American letters, winner of numerous awards -- well, he's here to stay. And that's a good thing.

But who is Paul Auster? In recent years, those critics who work in that in that air-tight, adjective laden atmosphere that materializes somewhere between the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books once a week have taken to his stygian, noirish scripts with fork and knife, feverishly speculating about which sauce to cover them in. (Old Fashioned? Pepper Spice? Neo-post-modern-noir?) Others come bearing not gifts but theories. Many believe he does not exist, hasn't existed, and that "Paul Auster," born February 3, 1947, etc., etc., is little more than a character or a trope in some charade about authors, authorship, that. (Admittedly, if does seem odd that a character called Paul Auster has appeared in a few of his novels. A lack of imagination perhaps?) Others conclude that he is a kind of translator of Nabokov -- reimagining from N.'s native Zemblan, of course -- who is ever-unearthing new manuscripts from some sodden cellar only he and N. knew of (Nabokov taught "Auster" at Columbia). Though this could only be true if he injected Nabokov's writing with measured doses of austerity, for the two -- lyrically, at least -- have little in common.

No, I'm just kidding about all this. I am Paul Auster. Or rather I'm Paul Auster's best friend and he's just died and an outline in his journal indicated I should write this blog. Really.

Anyways: Auster's newest, just out in paperback, Invisible (Picador, $12.00) is incredible and asks just the same questions as I have, though of course, more assiduously, wonderfully, deliciously. Read it!