And shush with your "it's boring" and "she's pretty bad too" - I NEED THIS. Jonah is great and all, but there needs to be one adult - just one! - that I don't actively hate and wish a house would fall on.
But yeah, ok, maybe it wasn't as great as it could have been. And did anyone else feel like Denise's section was re-heally tiny compared to the Lambert brothers? I mean, Chip even gets another 60+ pages this week! I think the biggest problem was starting with Brian and Robin - did we need to know that Robin comes from eleventy-billion generations of Teamsters*? Did Brian's work for the W-- corporation actually impact anything in any way? Also, why do literary authors do the W--- thing, is it because they're using actual company names and don't want to be sued? In which case, why not just make something up? I also really REALLY hated this whole "Robin is so beautiful and smart but she dresses like a grad student" bullshit. First, because I am a grad student and fuck you Franzen I have IMPECCABLE style, and two, why does she need to dress fancy and shave her armpits** - how does this impact on her worth as a person, a mother and a woman working in a community garden? Is it because of her mobster connections? Like, has Franzen watched too much Sopranos and decided he liked the idea of the less than classy mob aesthetic? I mean, look, I know people who argue "well each partner needs to keep their shit together visually because sex and stuff" but it doesn't really sound like Robin was super glamorous and then slumped into some sort of depression that she displayed through windbreakers and white sneakers, thus causing some kind of road block between her and Brian. And what was with Denise's incredulity that Robin owns white sneakers? Do Americans avoid plain white sneakers for some reason? Are they considered gauche? I know my mum always went for colourful and/or black ones when I was a kid because they were easily identifiable and didn't show dirt as much but Robin is a grown-ass woman. So what I'm saying here, or what I'm trying to say, is uhhhhh....?
But Denise! I kinda love her. I had a sneaking suspicion that Franzen would try and make her a lesbian (because obvs Enid would hate that) but I actually kind of liked this bisexual-attracted-to-older-married-people thing she has going on. Don't get me wrong, she's still a not great person and potentially worse than the others because she's purposely putting herself in a position that could end marriages, but unlike the others she seems to understand how fucked up her compulsions are and seems to both accept and understand the ramifications. Unlike Chip, who seems to still be unable to understand why screwing and stalking a student wasn't OK, and Gary who does shitty things under the guise of family. I also felt like it was an interesting complication to read about. It wasn't without the usually Franzen blehs, but I found it a lot more compelling and thought-provoking than the other two.
"She didn't understand what made her so very mean. She was unhappy to be so mean. There seemed to be something wrong with the way she thought about herself and other people."
"She wanted above all to be a private person, and independent individual. She didn't want to belong to any group, let alone a group with bad haircuts and strange resentful clothing issues. She didn't want a label she didn't want a lifestyle.And actually, maybe it's this quote that made me love her because it reminded me of Jonah (without the adultery undertones).
"She felt returned to a childhood world of Grimm and CS Lewis where a touch could be transformative"I liked that she always seemed to be motivated to prove something. That even if she wore a short skirt she was going to be the most useful summer intern ever. Or she might be cooking for the size-zero elite but she was going to feed them damn good comfort food. She seems to genuinely love her career and for the right reasons. Again, she's nothing like Chip who seems to only be where he is because Enid and Al hated it or Gary who is almost allergic to trying hard. I feel bad that I'm pushing the good qualities of Denise while she's still a shockingly bad person by regular standards, but for Franzen she's basically an angel.
|Or Batman. Because she has that whole hidden side, except she breaks up marriages not crime.|
Also, is Chip dead now or about to be tortured in a Lithuanian prison? If I've said it once I've said it 10,000 times - Franzen writes his book like a soap opera. Everything is super dramatic and with that awkward bright-lighting that makes everyone look terrible and the sets are made of cheap cardboard and every section ends with someone possibly dying. Except then, whoops don't worry they somehow survive falling 8 storeys and being dragged for several miles by a cruise liner. And we're not going to explain what sort of witchcraft made this work.
I groaned out loud when I read that Al was still alive. Franzen even acknowledged how flippin' big cruise liners are and the unlikeliness of his survival and STILL kept him alive. Why did he even need to fall off? Is that going to add anything to the narrative, anything that his goddamn Parkinson's and old-man-grumpiness wouldn't have already brought to the table? It's almost like Franzen anticipated us reading this book in sections and was like "I'm going to cliffhang the hell out of these bitches, aw yeah" (which is absolutely how Franzen speaks btw). And this man is considered not only a good writer, but a great writer?!
One more week until freedom!***
*Cheers to Alley for giving me the heads up on what a teamster even is.
**Ok, it does weird me out a little to see ladies with hairy pits, but as long as they're not BO-y I couldn't care less.
***The State of being free, not the next Franzen novel.