The opening pages in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom come off as a brilliant hybridization of a Jane Austen and a D.H. Lawrence novel. They are written with the conviction that the novel of love isn’t dead after all. But Franzen, judging from the evidence of this novel, doesn’t want to be Jane Austen; he wants to be Tolstoy. Courtship and marriage comprise only a part of his book. His characters must move to the centers of American power, out of the Midwest and into Washington and New York City, where world-historical mistakes are made, and where, as innocents, they will be wised-up. Freedom’s ambition is to be the sort of novel that sums up an age and that gets everything into it, a heroic and desperate project.
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