July 30, 2015
The Smallest Feather on The Wind
It has been a very long time since I’ve read a book which insinuates itself like an epiphany on my unsuspecting self or a disease which I can’t get rid of (maybe the same thing?)
In my own subjective and wholly unqualified ranking of masterpieces Franzen’s Freedom is instantly recognizable as a one if only for the microscopic and tender attention paid to every single detail, no matter how painful or casually exquisite. This is an unfair reduction however: there is at least Carver and Updike and Roth and even sometimes Dos Passos in his genes and a ruthless pursuit of mind-blowing prose and plot on every single page, paragraph and word.
It is significant to me that when I closed the last page there lingered that same bitter aftertaste that Musil’s Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften left behind forever: it made me think of parts of me that I never knew were there or much less needed thinking about. It first made me angry at discovering that no moment is ever trivial and then sad at the fundamental impossibility of cataloguing them all and then at peace at the prospect of the depths to which one can navigate to consider just a single one of those moments.
The tripe which surrounds us is not obvious, it being the bland, processed and artificial manifestation of sentiments like those. Not an easy foliage to shed.
Freedom helps. Simply and immensely.
And so he stopped looking at her eyes and started looking into them, returning their look before it was too late, before this connection between life and what came after life was lost, and let her see all the vileness inside him, all the hatreds of two thousand solitary nights, while the two of them were still in touch with the void in which the sum of everything they’d ever said or done, every pain they’d inflicted, every joy they’d shared, would weigh less than the smallest feather on the wind.
Jonathan Franzen — Freedom