In just a few days I finished Franzen’s latest book. It is a rich tapestry of contemporary America. Different ‘issues’ are dealt with: nature conservancy in the form of a cerulean warbler, a small songbird, MTR or Mountain Top Removal, indeed a blight on the landscape not only in the Appalachian mountains, but also on the Hopi and Navajo reservation. Of course family entanglements, networks, the pain, the mistakes, the loyalty, the hurt and goodness of human relations, poignancy about growing pains and the music scene, all is etched with a sharp needle and colored with a touch of compassion. Also the dealings with contracts for the war in Iraq is a cynical criticism of the warmongering and corruption in the Bush era.
I for one don’t like to read weighty books, so with 582 pages in my edition I struggled sometimes but the insightful comments on our times proved to be riveting. The real estate bubble is as much part of this book as are forays into drugs and infidelity. Yet there seems some redemption or warning in this book, for all of us. Find the time, you’ll enjoy to learn and think. One caveat: by his seeming realism one tends to read this as a classical naturalist novel and thus as the truth. The ambition of the book to be all encompassing however makes that at certain points I felt ill at ease with the flow of the narrative. Yet, a good read.