Posts tagged: Freedom

Bring in the Dark


I remember the night I first felt free. I was eighteen and had moved to New York a few days before. My mother had gone back to California and I’d gone to dinner in the West Village with my brother and some of his friends and when the dinner was over they went one way and I went another.

I walked toward Christopher Street Station or wherever the stop was that would connect me to the 1 and 9 trains back to school and there were strangers everywhere, shadowed near the stoops and lit up under neon pizza signs and smoking outside of clubs and riding breakneck toward Brooklyn, helmetless and unconcerned.

I thought I was going the right way, but I wasn’t sure, and there was no friend to ask.

I was loose in a chaos I had always longed for, and no one knew me, no one at all. There were endless weedy corner basketball courts, and sprawled human shapes with sleeping bags pulled over their heads, and con-artists pretending to be fashion designers, and theater people pretending to be in love with you, and unnaturally tall men who would pick you up and carry you down the street without warning.

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Charles Baxter on Jonathan Franzen

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.

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