Rightly or wrongly, we tend to think it rare in the 21st century for a novel to galvanize national discussion the way books might have in earlier eras. Sure, we have our Twilights and Potters and girls with reptilian tattoos, but how often does a work of serious fiction penetrate the literary bubble and reach the masses?
That's why, with the inaugural edition of GOOD's Book Club, we're tackling the macdaddy du jour of literary fiction: Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.
Love him or loathe him, Franzen, in all his Oprah-snubbing, avant-garde-distancing, Time-cover-gracing, feminist-but-maybe-also-kinda-misogynist glory, has crafted what looks to be another towering, devastating laceration of contemporary American culture. A few weeks after publishing the follow-up to his National Book Award-winning 2001 novel, The Corrections, Franzen finds himself atop a veritable throne. Deservedly? Maybe not! Over-hyped? Perhaps! Do you have an opinion on him? We hope so!
Over the next month, we'll be reading Freedom, and as an experiment in large-scale shared experience, we invite you to grab a copy from your local book store, library, or e-reader proprietor, and read along with us. Two weeks from today, GOOD Features Editor Siobhan O'Connor and I will post an online discussion covering everything up to page 290 (the novel's midpoint and the end of a chapter), and we invite you to sound off with comments, questions, or angry take-downs of our analysis.
One month from today, we'll post a finale, in which we discuss the entire book. At that point, we're holding a contest to see who among you can write the best 200-word review of the novel. We're looking for insight, thoughtfulness, and entertaining prose—not a specific response one way or the other. The best three reviews (as determined by the editors of GOOD) will be published on the website, and the over-all winner will receive a free subscription and a GOOD T-shirt. If it's a success, the book club will become a standard monthly feature in the world of GOOD.
Until then, happy reading.