This is a fantastic essay on/review of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, by Charles Baxter, in the New York Review of Books. Baxter’s clear prose and thinking on the book are a relief from all the other discussion surrounding Freedom‘s release, which may be interesting and useful, but doesn’t have much to do with the book itself. Baxter (and TNYRB) show the kind of careful, engaging thought and analysis so rarely seen in reviews or critical response to fiction today. This reminds me of why Baxter’s Burning Down the House is one of my favorite books of essays on writing — weaving astute cultural observation and criticism with the elements of fiction and storytelling he examines, kicking the whole “Is fiction relevant?” question squarely in the ass, or, better, just showing over and over the irrelevance of that question.
Baxter’s Willow Springs interview from spring 2010 is here.