The Great American Novel?

By | August 30, 2010

Freedom-388x600-250x386 Jonathan Franzen's highly anticipated book, Freedom, comes out tomorrow (or midnight tonight if you've got a kindle). I would start reading at midnight and try to finish in one sitting, but I’ve got to be at work at 8am tomorrow, but please do let me know if you try.

Good old Muchico Kakutani gave it a rave review in the New York times, essentially solidifying its immediate success. Which is hilarious, since if you recall, she trashed Franzen’s memoir and he retaliated by calling her “the stupidest person in New York City” (don’t you just love literary feuds). It's been called the Great American Novel, and with a name like Freedom, it sure is on the right track.

While on vacation with his family in Martha's Vineyard, President Obama visited a small bookshop and was apparently given an "advance copy" of Freedom. You can read the full story here. Perhaps a star struck bookshop employee had the foresight to throw a copy of the highly anticipated book into the hands of the leader of the free world. I hope the publisher sends them a thank you note.

But seriously, what is the Great American Novel? A wikipedia page attempts to define the history of this oft-tossed around term. Greats like Mark Twain, Henry James, John Steinbeck and J.D. Salinger are all on the list, but so is Franzen for his 2001 release, The Corrections. It seems that each era has its own emblem and perhaps the first decade of the 21st century has found it’s poster child. And Franzen really is a poster child, gracing the cover of TIME magazine as America’s Greatest Novelist. It seems everyone has something to say about Freedom and it isn’t even out yet.

If you are interested in learning more about Franzen and the impact of his work,  (pre Freedom media insanity) check out Stephen J. Burn’s Jonathan Franzen at the End of Post-modernism which is a comprehensive look at his work so far. You can read a preview of this book by clicking on the widget to the left.

Maybe as Americans, we are making a self-conscious attempt, in the wake of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo storm, to show that we can write good too.


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