Hi, so, this book is great, OK? I'm not trying to impose my brief evaluation upon you, or saying that all other books are shit, but let's agree to it, this book is just a straight standout.

(a piteous attempt at mimicking Patty, sometimes my favorite character, sometimes a heroine, sometimes a plain douchebaguette, but mostly an epitome of modern feminine figure engulfed in a pensive, overwhelmingly astral dream of carte blanche.)

I don't know if this book is meant to make me feel sentimental or depressed or sullen or cynical, or all of them intermittently, or all at the same time; or also elated and delirious some other time.

I think freedom probes every facet of human emotions possible, attempting to find out how much pounding required for his/her emotional walls to splinter and pulverize into fine particles (maybe crystalized into tears, maybe a stern look via conscious effort of holding back, maybe a familiar pang, maybe a distant wistful gazing, a longing, etc--it clearly differs from one to another.) (Please help me bolster this list, should you feel a certain kind of other emotions upon reading it.)

There was a particular time when I felt the need to pin down my sentiments immediately, it was on June 11, 15:23 GMT +8:

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is extraordinarily good. Now starting on Chapter 3.

It feels like reading a less experimental, elongated version of Lydia Davis essay (edit: I now feel they only intersect at some of the topics they are highlighting, i.e life, marriage, futility, curiosity) but with more twists (whereas Davis' seems to focus on aiming at the truths slowly. No rumbles of 'surprise surprise'.)

The scenario laid out in the book is of course not very ordinary (this is an opinion according to my unfledged age, which correlates with my lack of myriad experience), and yet it succeeds at belittling the distance between the readers' story and the characters' story. Sort of, speaking nicely of its latent message: 'My story MIGHT be your story. It even might have been; so listen.'

It makes me feel very little. Upon reading MISTAKES WERE MADE section I solemnly wish for Patty's mistakes, but I shook my head, proposing an obvious rebuttal. It surprised me to realize how little I understood myself what kind of life I really wanted. And so it went back to my thinking that one lifetime is simply not enough. It was an unyielding greed that has grown in my heart for long.

The book's intergenerational approach of storytelling back and forth, I think, sort of cements the categorization of typical life paths into a clear cycle:

1) Middle class climbing up to upper class. If successful, go to step 2.
2) The children sick of /bored with money. Leading their own pursuits and slowing down. If they somehow maintain their wealth by working their way around money, proceed to step 3. If they fail to, skip and go to step 4.
3) Staying or living inherently rich (the latter reserved for the subsequent generation(s)). If the wealth persists throughout generations, repeat this step. Otherwise, commence with step 4.
4) Abruptly freesliding into the low class world, or steadily sinking into the middle class one. This step may repeat itself in its perseverance. In a likely scenario such as the birth of familial breakthrough ('I'm sick of this situation, must do something to make my family suffer less'), please take a step back to the first point.

I witness that point one is the most common one. Obviously without any supporting statistics/hard data this statement is based on the worldview of mine, which is clouded heavily by whom and what kind of news I actively and passively interact with.

Also, another major topic is kids. Overpopulation. How the poor always excessively reproduce. Some comprehensible dose of politics too, which I do not mind. All in all, although its main kick is of course emotional, there's some logic down there too. And common sense.

What makes the book even more perfect is the references--Bright Eyes, White Stripes, etc. This book speaks for this era we're living. For instance, justification for a feeling of disappointment when your favorite band, previously unknown (or recently also synonymous with INDIE), is now on everyone's playlist or even more annoyingly on every radio frequency, because the latter one is much more inevitably likely to permeate your bored ears. I mean, we are humans and we tire of ubiquitous things we used to make ubiquitous ONLY in our own private sphere (ie a world consisting of only oneself). I don't know. It might come across as vain. But I just feel there's nothing wrong with it; no rage here. Listen to whatever you want to but don't blame me if it affects what I listen to (and mostly what I no longer listen to) as well. I just get tired, at times for this kind of reserved reasons.

Now, besides wrecked marriage/family--how complicated and piercing a common issue could become (decided to skip it, the flavor has to be tasted without my unhelpful aid here), the giant emotional ride owes to the theme of blind submission and its limit. (It shall be noted that such wreckage that follows here hovers over a family that holds progressive value.) How, no matter how helplessly someone falls for another, if pushed endlessly to the boundaries, the end of such all-consuming love is not nonexistent. And always the issue of how much, how much is left, who loves whom more, who thinks who loves whom more, is sometimes center to it all (which reminds me of Milan Kundera & Lydia Davis.)

Talking about the ending, it is different in a way that it makes me contemplate more about the word 'ending'. The book itself is different to me because most of the time, a book tells stories. So an ending aptly should be the end of the stories, a closing with an attached understanding that the subsequent events, even their uncertain existence, do not matter or at least are up for the readers to ponder about.

But here Freedom does not tell of stories. It tells of lives. And an important spoiler here (cover this part if you are not very fond of it): the book has two endings, the major one to me being a crucial announcement of the deaths of most of its characters, preceding the second one which is the 'formal' ending. And so that's how the book has changed the way I view 'endings'.

On my flight back from Sydney a neighboring passenger asked me about the book, and, having glimpsed at the book cover, said that she trusted anything favoredly reviewed by Independent.

It says on the cover, "Deeper, funnier, sadder and truer than a work of fiction has any right to be."

And of course no objection from my side will be made on this.

1 comment:

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