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"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen: a review roundup

"Freedom" has got everybody talking about Jonathan Franzen.

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Cleveland Plain Dealer: Karen Long objects to Franzen's "unmitigated misanthropy," writing, "He doesn't countenance altruism; he insists on human rancidness." Yet she also calls the book "marvelous, maddening," adding, "This is fabulous stuff."

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Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal: Mike Fisher writes, " 'Freedom' is even better than its predecessor ['The Corrections']," concluding that, "[t]he opening to 'Freedom' is Franzen's wry goodbye to the smart-aleck novelist he once was, while the remainder of the novel confirms what a literary giant he has since become."

Chicago Sun-Times: Contemporary fiction could use more of both the skill of Franzen the ambition of "Freedom," admits Mark Athitakis. But, he adds, "if Franzen can only make his concerns seem considered and thought-about, not deeply felt, that's his damn problem, not ours."

Dallas Morning News: " 'Freedom' is a fascinating, multigenerational family saga that, more gracefully than 'The Corrections,' walks the line between social satire and uncompromising realism, casting a cold eye on an America that is by turns appalling and inspiring."

Miami Herald: "Freedom" is "political and personal, surprisingly funny at times and devastatingly insightful, a grand examination of what's gone badly wrong on every level of contemporary life, from music ... to mountaintop-removal mining."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "No novel is perfect," writes Bob Hoover, who finds "a few sour notes" in "Freedom." "But like his characters," Hoover concludes, "these flaws are part of the process of Mr. Franzen's intense concerns for what make us human."

Monitor book critic Yvonne Zipp's review of "Freedom" will appear tomorrow.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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