Ruth Franklin on Franzen’s Freedom

Here, from TNR. It’s quite a negative review, all told. But it strikes me as the worst form of criticism: she’s really critiquing those who hold it up as a masterpiece, and then derides the book for not being that. It’s not world historical enough; it’s not masterpiece enough… well, who could survive those withering standards? That’s not to say it is a masterpiece and it doesn’t have problems, but it’s a good book, with nice, long stretches of inventive writing. (The worst cliched moment, which she doesn’t mention, is actually the moment Walter does his “i’ve had enough and can’t take it anymore” speech.) And, I might point out, one could crawl through any work and find cliches of sentences, etc. That’s what language, after all, is. And yes, I worry that it just holds up a mirror to Americans all too happy to read about themselves. But that should make one want to write a different book, not tear down the one that somehow one says is Icarus flying to the sun…