I don’t recall as much about Freedom as I do The Corrections, but this book, the up until soon most recent Jonathan Franzen indulges in some of Franzen’s best and worst habits. There’s whole sections of this book that read like the “Chip in Eastern Europe” section of the Corrections writ large. I mention that because I know several people who love that book and hate that part. One of my most discerning professors held that opinion.
The story here is Great Expectations. Purity does not know who her father is, or who her mother really is. She goes by Pip, and there’s a few in-jokes about that references, and the convolutedness of the plot is easily explained by the conventions of the novel, which is useful for credulity.
Pip has a crappy internet job which she hates. She’s getting sexually harassed by her boss and is doing the calculations about how much more she can tolerate it. She’s $130,000 in college debt, lives in NY in a kind of collective house, and is not sure how much more she can take. Her mother is a loon and uses the concept of “moral hazard” to control and manipulate Pip, and won’t tell her who her father is. Pip seeks out older men in both romantic and nonromantic relationships, but doesn’t like this. She is invited to an internship by an Assange-esque hacktivist collective which causes her mother a lot of grief. We don’t learn what happens there, but do find Pip later working as journalist in Denver. We know this jump is connected, but not how. Instead, we are given a lot of back story of numerous characters as we circulate back to the central questions this novel poses.
I would be curious which fans Franzen loses on this one, if any, and who he might pick up as a consequence. I think this is Franzen at his most Franzen, until the next one.