Book Reviews

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

24. Freedom - Jonathan Franzen

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 5/10

Date of reading: 1st – 4th of July, 2017

Description: The book describes many different themes, from a love marriage (triangle) of wife, husband, and husband’s best friend, to the state of the Iraqi war, politics, sports, nature conservation, mother-son, father-daughter relationships, etc. 


My notes:


“According to Patty, the lesson that Joey had learned from his incessant arguments with Walter was that children were compelled to obey parents because parents had the money.” ( :8)

“She knew that you could love somebody more than anything and still not love the person all that much, if you were busy with other things.” ( :27)

“”But Title Nine’s just basic fairness,” Patty said. “If half your students are female, they should be getting half the athletic money.” “That’s feminism!”” ( :59)

“”And that’s what he’s told you. That’s the extent of it.” “His dad has emphysema. His mom has disabilities.” “And he’s working construction twenty-five hours a week and pulling down As in law school. And there he is, every day, with all that time to hang out with you. How nice for you, that he has so much free time. But you’re a good-looking chick, you deserve it, right? Plus you’ve got your terrible injury. That and being good-looking: that earns you the right not to even ask him any questions.”” ( :65)

“”And yet you’re apparently unaware that his dad’s dying of liver disease and his older brother’s in jail for vehicular assault and his other brother’s spending his Army paychecks making payments on his vintage Corvette. And Walter’s averaging about four hours of sleep while you’re being friends and hanging out, just so you can come over here and flirt with me.” Patty became very quiet.” ( :66)

“Richard’s personal life” ( :94)

“Richard would get thirty dollars an hour, plus free electricity and heat, and could do the work on his own schedule.” ( :95)

“A: If you’re going to talk about ancient history, let’s go back to the French Revolution. Remember when, I forget his name, but that rocker who wrote the “Marseillaise,” Jean Jacques Whoever—remember when his song started getting all that airplay in 1792, and suddenly the peasantry rose up and overthrew the aristocracy? There was a song that changed the world. Attitude was what the peasants were missing. They already had everything else—humiliating servitude, grinding poverty, unpayable debts, horrific working conditions. But without a song, man, it added up to nothing. The sansculotte style was what really changed the world.” ( :124)

“mainstream, and manufacture Chiclets, and help try to persuade fourteen-year-olds that the look and feel of Apple Computer products is an indication of Apple Computer’s commitment to making the world a better place. Because making the world a better place is cool, right? And Apple Computer must be way more committed to a better world, because iPods are so much cooler-looking than other MP3 players, which is why they’re so much more expensive and incompatible with other companies’ software, because—well, actually, it’s a little unclear why, in a better world, the very coolest products have to bring the very most obscene profits to a tiny number of residents of the better world. This may be a case where you have to step back and take the long view and see that getting to have your own iPod is itself the very thing that makes the world a better place. And that’s what I find so refreshing about the Republican Party. They leave it up to the individual to decide what a better world might be. It’s the party of liberty, right? That’s why I can’t understand why those intolerant Christian moralists have so much influence on the party.” ( :124)

“er birds and look at the little ones. Self-interest, yeah, but a total win-win. In terms of locking up habitat to save it from development, it’s a lot easier to turn a few billionaires than to educate American voters who are perfectly happy with their cable and their Xboxes and their broadband.”” ( :131)

“You remember Aristotle and the different kinds of causes? Efficient and formal and final? Well, nest-predation by crows and feral cats is an efficient cause of the warbler’s decline. And fragmentation of the habitat is a formal cause of that. But what’s the final cause? The final cause is the root of pretty much every problem we have.” ( :135)

“C-A-T-S. Everybody loves their kitty cat and lets it run around outside. It’s just one cat—how many birds can it kill? Well, every year in the U.S. one billion songbirds are murdered by domestic and feral cats. It’s one of the leading causes of songbird decline in North America. But no one gives a shit because they love their own individual kitty cat.”” ( :137)

“”All it takes to disprove a general law is one counterexample. I’ve got at least two great ones in Jessica and Lalitha.” “But not Joey?”” ( :142)

“You’ve got a whole cult following because of your integrity.” “Integrity’s a neutral value. Hyenas have integrity, too. They’re pure hyena.”” ( :142)

“makeup and overly formal clothes and dressed for Cavaliers games as if they were the Kentucky Derby. It was true that certain secondtier girls, at parties where they’d drunk too much, had given him to understand he was a boy to whom hookups were available. But for whatever reason, whether because he was a wuss or because he hated shouting over music or because he thought too highly of himself or because he was unable to ignore how stupid and annoying too much alcohol made a girl, he’d formed an early prejudice against these parties and their hookups and decided that he much preferred hanging out with other guys.” ( :157)

“”You’re right about that. But when we discover that our understanding of the world, based on decades of careful empirical study by the very best minds, is in striking accordance with the inductive principle of universal human freedom, it’s a good indication that our thinking is at least approximately on track.”” ( :165)

“”And so I’m guessing you’ve already had the experience of being frustrated with people who aren’t as bright as you are. People who are not only unable but unwilling to admit certain truths whose logic is self-evident to you. Who don’t even seem to care that their logic is bad. Have you never been frustrated that way?”” ( :166)

“Each new thing he encountered in life impelled him in a direction that fully convinced him of its rightness, but then the next new thing loomed up and impelled him in the opposite direction, which also felt right.” ( :196)

“”What is your thing? You don’t have a thing. You sit around doing nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, every day, and it’s killing me. If you would actually go out and get a job, and earn an actual paycheck, or do something for another human being, instead of sitting in your room feeling sorry for yourself, you might feel less worthless, is what I’m saying.”” ( :202)

“What he’d never understood about men in his position, in all the books he’d read and movies he’d seen about them, was clearer to him now: you couldn’t keep expecting wholehearted love without, at some point, requiting it. There was no credit to be earned for simply being good.” ( :206)

“The kiddies were perennially enticing and perennially unsatisfying in much the same way that coke was unsatisfying: whenever he was off it, he remembered it as fantastic and unbeatable and craved it, but as soon as he was on it again he remembered that it wasn’t fantastic at all, it was sterile and empty: neuro-mechanistic, death-flavored.” ( :214)

“Youth had ever recorded. But Jessica was adamant about picking a name that said yes rather than no. Something pro, not contra. “Kids my age are way more libertarian than you guys were,” she explained. “Anything that smells like elitism, or not respecting somebody else’s point of view, they’re allergic to.” ( :223)

“The Case for Space?” “Better not to get sued at all, I think,” Lalitha said.” ( :224)

“direction, aging, and the self-protective core of him, seeing it, was telling him to run while he still could. He’d followed an instinct in coming down here, but there was a big difference, he was realizing, between an instinct and a plan.” ( :228)

“”Ha. I don’t know if that makes it worse or better. I guess it doesn’t even matter, since it was all in my head anyway. I’ve spent three years wanting a thing I knew would never make me happy. But that didn’t make me stop wanting it. You were like a bad drug I couldn’t stop craving. My whole life was like a kind of mourning for some evil drug I knew was bad for me. It was literally not until yesterday, when I actually saw you, that I realized I didn’t need the drug after all. It was suddenly like, ‘What was I thinking? He’s here for Walter.’ “” ( :230)

“traveling with her in Argentina was the fact that, five months earlier, at the age of twenty, in a fit of madness in New York City, he’d gone to the courthouse in Lower Manhattan and married Connie Monaghan. But this was by no means the worst of his worries, and he chose, for the moment, to overlook it.” ( :235)

“m her for even an hour, to take a walk by himself or to talk to Jonathan, he might have achieved some useful clarity and distance. He could see that postcoital decisions were a lot more realistic than precoital ones. In the moment, though, there had been no post-, it had all been preupon preupon pre-.” ( :255)

“watered gardens and paddocks and fully modernized stone guesthouses and stables. Joey and Jenna’s room had deliciously needless expanses of cool tiled floor and big windows open to the rushing of the stream below them. He’d feared there would be two beds, but either Jenna had intended to share a king-size with her mother or she’d changed the reservation. He stretched out on the deep-red brocade bedspread, sinking into its thousand-dollar-a-night plushness. But Jenna was already changing into riding clothes and boots. “Félix is going to show me the horses,” she said. “Do you want to come along?”” ( :262)

“pushed him onto his back and took his penis in her mouth. Again, at first, he was hard, and her mouth felt heavenly, but then he slipped away a little and softened, and worried about softening and tried to will hardness, will connection, think about whose mouth he was in, and then unfortunately he considered how little fellatio had ever interested him, and wondered what was wrong with him.” ( :264)

“And it was a strange thing to feel, but he definitely felt it: when he emerged from the bathroom with the ring on his ring finger, and Jenna rushed past him and then reeled out again, squealing and cursing at the stench, he was a different person. He could see this person so clearly, it was like standing outside himself. He was the person who’d handled his own shit to get his wedding ring back. This wasn’t the person he’d thought he was, or would have chosen to be if he’d been free to choose, but there was something comforting and liberating about being an actual definite someone, rather than a collection of contradictory potential someones.” ( :265)

“see is what she looks like. She’s so much less lucky than you are.” Joey proceeded to tell Jonathan the story of the ring, and the ghastly scene in the bathroom, with his hands full of crap and Jenna knocking on the door, and in his own laughter and in Jonathan’s laughter and disgusted groans he found the solace he’d been looking for. What had been abhorrent for five minutes made a great story forever after.” ( :269)

“And then one night, on CNN, he saw the news of an ambush outside Fallujah in which several American trucks had broken down, leaving their contract drivers to be butchered by insurgents. Although he didn’t see any A10s in the CNN footage, he became so anxious that he had to drink himself to sleep. He woke up some hours later, in a sweat, mostly sober, beside his wife, who slept literally like a baby—with that world-trusting sweet stillness—and he knew he had to call his father in the morning. He’d never felt so afraid of anything as of making this call. But he could see now that nobody else could advise him what to do, whether to blow the whistle and suffer the consequences or stay mum and keep the money, and that nobody else could absolve him. Connie’s love was too unqualified, his mother’s too self-involved, Jonathan’s too secondary. It was to his strict, principled father that a full accounting needed to be made. He’d been battling him all his life, and now the time had come to admit that he was beaten.” ( :272)

“His obstinate object, his frustrating wife. And he was sick of it, sick of all the reasoning and understanding, and so he threw her on the floor and fucked her like a brute. The look of discovery on her face then, which must have mirrored the look on his own face, made him stop almost as soon as they’d got started. Stop and pull out and straddle her chest and stick his erection, which seemed twice its usual size, into her face. To show her who he was becoming. They were both smiling like crazy.” ( :282)

“”Except I don’t want to see you again. I don’t want to be in the same room with you again. I don’t want to hear that person’s name again. I don’t want to have anything to do with either of you. Ever. I just want to be alone so I can contemplate having wasted my entire life loving you.”” ( :283)

“The next afternoon, after Soquel had returned to the airport, Lalitha locked the door of Walter’s office and knelt down between his legs to reward him for his labors. “No, no, no,” he said, rolling the chair away from her.” ( :288)

“Whatever did happen exactly, around 7:45 a.m., five miles south of the farm, her car went down a long and very steep embankment and crushed itself against a hickory tree. The police report would not even offer the faintly consoling assurance of an instant killing. But the trauma was severe, her pelvis was broken and a femoral artery severed, and she had certainly died before Walter, at 7:30 in Minnesota, returned the house key to its nail beneath the bench and headed over to Aitkin County to look for his brother.” ( :307)

“Spending so much time listening to her father make fun of everything, albeit a little more feebly each day, she was disturbed to see how much like him she was, and why her own children weren’t more amused by her capacity for amusement, and why it would have been better to have” ( :314)

“forced herself to see more of her parents in the critical years of her own parenthood, so as to better understand her kids’ response to her.” ( :315)

“. All I’m asking for is enough money so I don’t have to work.” “What’s wrong with working?” Patty said, hearing” ( :322)

“Patty could see that Joyce wasn’t just lucky to have a daughter like her: that she was also lucky to have had a mother like Joyce.” ( :323)

“‘m not blaming you,” Patty said. “I’m asking because I was really good at basketball. I was really, really good. I’ve probably made more mistakes as a mother than you did, so this is not a criticism. I’m just thinking, it would have made you happy to” ( :324)

“shockingly bad at managing boys older than six or seven, and it’s a struggle to interest herself in activity purely for activity’s sake; she needs a real team, her own team, to discipline and focus on winning.” ( :325)

“unexpected news that Walter had a law degree and was versed not only in his First Amendment rights but also in the Canterbridge Estates homeowners covenant, which contained a clause requiring pets to be under the control of their owners at all times; the sheriff advised Linda to shred the leaflet and move on.” ( :332)

“small-label Richard Katz solo effort, with a boreal landscape on the front, superimposed with the title Songs for Walter.” ( :338)

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