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Franzen’s Freedom: a novel for the noughties

The world has been waiting nine years for Jonathan Franzen’s latest work of fiction. And this angry, cranky, compendious, dazzling book doesn’t disappoint

By Tom Chatfield   175

Freedom By Jonathan Franzen (4th Estate, £20)

Two-thirds of the way through the 562-page bulk of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Joey Berglund and his girlfriend, Connie, meet in New York city—“its pedestrians half naked in the August heat, its bricks and bridges paled by haze”—to celebrate his 20th birthday, and conclude ten days of frantic sexual congress by getting married, obedient to one of the many “urgent irrational imperatives” that drive Franzen’s plot: lust, envy, rage, fear, familial loathing. Seven pages of action and heat cover Joey and Connie’s time in the city, yet just two sentences are spent on…

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