Franzen’s novels now have a recognisable formula. The passing of the narrative baton between several characters who collectively will tell a family history. Some have said this novel is a departure from his familiar familial territory – but I didn’t see that at all. This is another novel about a family, or, more accurately, two families. I continually felt like I was reading an inferior version of Freedom and The Corrections (both novels I loved). Some have seen it as an attack on the internet. I didn’t really see that either. I was rather dreading some kind of repeat of Eggers’ soulless sterile propaganda attempt at warning us about the nefarious nature of social media. Purity has been praised for “rejecting the American dream of individuals as authors of their own destiny” but this is hardly ground-breaking as a theme: what good contemporary American writer hasn’t shown us the other side of the Gatsby coin?
If there’s a subtext in this novel it might be decoded as “everyone needs a dad because mothers are a bloody nightmare.”
You could say Purity is essentially about squabbling. Everyone is squabbling with everyone else – usually after a brief hiatus of requited love. The main problem for me though was the characters. The pulse they provided was often so thin that several times the novel was on the verge of dying. It wasn’t until Annabel arrived (around page 370) that finally the novel acquired a stronger heartbeat.
The novel begins (badly) with Pip. Pip is pretty obnoxious and insubstantial. Pip is squabbling with the entire world. To counteract her lack of charm and depth Franzen gives her a mystery. She has been brought up by a Miss Havisham mother who refuses to tell her who her father is. (The rather heavy handed parallels with Great Expectations were like a joke I didn’t get.)
The second voice is Andreas Wolf. He is squabbling with his mother. He too doesn’t know who his father is. I’m not sure why Franzen repeated this theme. Reminded me of Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night where everyone is shooting each other in the first 100 pages as if Fitzgerald liked the idea so much he couldn’t stop using it. The novel stands or falls on Wolf as he is central to the bigger picture Franzen is presenting. Through Wolf Franzen connects the surveillance culture of the eastern Bloc with modern day internet privacy issues. But Wolf was all pasteboard melodrama for me. The more we were told about him the less believable he became. His story is pinched from McEwan’s The Innocent. It felt like Franzen is too conservative in his bones to convincingly create such a psychotic misfit. Half way through Wolf’s story I knew this novel wasn’t going to work.
The third voice is Tom. Tom is like another, more domesticated version of Andreas. Except he’s an investigative journalist. This was where Franzen might have contrasted internet whistleblowing with rigorous well-researched investigative journalism but at no point do we see Tom investigating anything that might be deemed important. At the end of the day his attempts at enlightening the world appear no more laudable than Andreas’. The best part of the novel though is without question his dysfunctional relationship with his wife, Annabel. Finally Franzen seemed to have hold of his characters and command of his material.
But this is a mean-spirited flabby ponderous novel that not even the fabulously absurd but well meaning Annabel could rescue.
Should also be said that Pip’s moral transformation, unlike her Dickens’ counterpart, takes place offstage so there’s a sense of being cheated out of any dramatic denouement.
The high level of my expectation, my great expectations, no doubt contributed to the level of my disappointment. The Corrections was a great novel; Freedom was even better. I’m sure Franzen will write another great novel but this certainly isn’t it....Continua
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Non fate passare altro tempo, prendetevelo e leggetelo. L'hype che mi ha schiaffeggiato per mesi (io lo volevo già comprare in lingua) non si è dissolto in una delusione vaporosa, per niente.
Ancora una volta la storia è quella di una famiglia. Più o meno.
Perché non si parte avvantaggiati come nei romanzi precedenti, qui la famiglia c'è, ma non si vede. Come sempre Franzen utilizza diversi punti di vista, mette in scena tutti i suoi personaggi per immergersi completamente in un percorso fatto di emozioni altalenanti e, in questo caso, obbiettivi da raggiungere.
Perché questa volta non si tratta di fare "solamente" un bel giro sulla giostra della crescita, dei legami, ma di ottenere qualcosa, e viene costruito con una crudele lentezza che porterà alla consapevolezza, quella del lettore, quella di Purity che cerca suo padre, quella di Andreas Wolf che cerca di liberare sé stesso. Ogni pezzo va lentamente al suo posto, combacia con gli altri, attraverso un lavoro che comprende salti temporali, legami famigliari e una sana quantità di rabbia. Del resto, come i romanzi precedenti (inutile cercare di non fare un confronto secondo me), Franzen, con i suoi lunghi periodi e i suoi dialoghi perfetti, riesce a fare un po' male al cuore, ma stavolta è quasi liberatorio.
Il punto è, Purity ha una trama grandiosa e dei personaggi potenti. Giovani, distrutti, malsani, capaci di raccontarsi in maniera completamente trasparente.
Del resto si parla di purezza no? Ma Franzen per parlare di tutto questo si insinua nell'America che ha fatto dello spionaggio, dei leaks, un'arma a doppio taglio, dei grandi personaggi disincantati, dell'internet come il nuovo grande totalitarismo. Parla del giornalismo d'inchiesta, della trasparenza legata a una morale, di maschere costruite nel tempo.
E in fondo questa Purezza tanto ricercata coincide con l'Assassino. Purity che nasconde con astio il suo vero nome, Andreas Wolfe che non trova fine ai tormenti che lo hanno reso quello che è. La vera trasparenza è la paura. Non la stessa paura di vivere in un mondo governato da un regime "così debole e pavido da erigere un muro per imprigionare quelli che aveva liberato". È una paura la cui purezza è corrotta, per sempre.
Purity è un romanzo che parla di ricerca, di segreti nascosti con attenzione, di amicizia e ovviamente di legami. L'unica pecca, sul finale si respira un'atmosfera già sentita, e mente iniziavo il penultimo capitolo e poi lo finivo mi sembrava di star rileggendo Libertà. Quella risoluzione repentina, che sì, ha un senso, però non sono riuscita a viverla con gli occhi spalancati come in tutto il resto del romanzo....Continua
I think the central theme in the book is the difficulty the charactersfind in communicating with each other. Communicate their needs, their love, their secrets. The intense desire to express all this but the incapacity to do it. Tom and Anabel make each other life a nightmare. Andreas creates The Sunlight Project because he wants to peep into other people lives and spy their weakness ( exactly like the Stasi did with him when he was young ) but also because this is a way to create a mask to hide behind, a way to give the world a new image of himself, an image to be loved. A pity this image is not his real self. He has a disconcerting and schizophrenic personality and can only be loved by those who know him in a superficial way. When Purity and Tom ( the positive characters in the book ) perceive what is behind this mask they have no other choice than leave him alone. Surely Franzen meant to create a seductive type but I think he didn't succeed in his intent. Andreas gets on my nerves. And so does Anabel.
In my opinion THE CORRECTIONS remains the best novel by this author.
Jonathan Franzen says about his book that it has mainly to do with the “deception of idealism”, and I agree with him. Ideals are necessary to make life richer, but lack of pragmatism leads inevitably to a distorted, I would say oversimplified, vision of reality, which is often no less complex than this novel characters’ lives.
In fact, each character’s story could be a book in itself, but the main thread revolves around two poles: Pip Tyler and Andreas Wolf. Both have experienced a sort of deception in their life, both have the right to be angry, but Andreas reacts to blind idealism with something not completely different from it, while Pip’s pragmatism saves her, and her sensitivity gives her the ability of playing a positive role in the life of other people.
The influence of new media on society emerges from the background, and that inevitably turns to one important question: what is the difference between free access and simply uncontrolled circulation of information? Once more, in my opinion, Pip’s case can give an answer.
Great work, but surely high demanding reading. I would have given five stars if only the book had been a little bit shorter…...Continua