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This was a very good read, mixing humour and real current concerns including feminism and the environment, not forgetting sex and violence. The typesetting in the Kindle edition is appalling which is why it only gets three stars. Easily a 4 otherwise. Kindle customers deserve better than this production
I undertook reading "Strong Motion" to find out how Jonathan Franzen came to his reputation as the current great American novelist even before his breakthrough "The Corrections" (2001). Written in 1992, "Strong Motion" is structured around a central system, like "Gravity's Rainbow" or "Infinite Jest," in this case the geology of earthquakes caused by deep injection wells (as in today's Oklahoma). More than that, it's the story of how a feckless male twenty-something named Louis Holland gets involved with an older Harvard geologist named Renee Seitcheck, has his "And That's How You Lose Her" moment, and is awarded a do-over by the fickle finger of fate. That Seitcheck is such a well-developed character compared to other authors' male manque love objects contributes to Franzen's reputation (the sister in "The Corrections" is another full female character). Whether he actually catches women's thought processes and worldly impositions is doubtful (even geologists must wear high heels if they happen to be women), but he probably does as well as any man can.
Franzen uses different eras of popular music (an era in popular culture being about 4-8 years) to indicate changing worldviews. Even though Louis, as a radio nerd, is a likely person to make such distinctions, it is with Renee that Franzen most applies them. To me, the use of a popular culture reference, presumably shared with the reader, as the way of communicating some aspect of the zeitgeist, seems the mark of a lazy or insufficiently articulate writer which de-universalizes the message. How well will the novel communicate in translation or to the next generation? Yet the descriptions of technology of the era (Data General computers, Xerox machines run by operators in copy centers) irrevocably binds the story to the late 70s/early 80s. So do the militant fundamentalist attacks on abortion providers of which Dr. Seitcheck becomes a target. Is it that any story, our stories, are time-bound to the culture in which they exist? Can we really understand Anton Chekov? Ishmael Beah? Or is Franzen just not up to writing something timeless and universal?
Probably it is a bit pretentious for an author to aspire to write the Great American Novel. Perhaps it is more realistic to expect an author to have a unique, interesting voice in which s/he tells complete stories about complex humans addressing the existential challenge in their own times and places. That good, Franzen is.
Rough in the beginning. Bought years ago cause I can't get enough Franzen. Hadn't heard of it, and figured it was an early try that never made it. Once I started reading, I knew that it was. But then something happened, the way it does with a book, and sudddenly I found I was involved and enjoying it. Couldn't wait to read. I was bummed when it was over. A great read. Try it and stick with it. 👍
This is a franzen novel in the tradition of the correction and freedom, less so purity. It's a little more clunky than I can remember those 2 novels being but even that is a bit of a thrill as it feels like practice to perfect the style that makes those books so great. The characters are young, wonderfully so, and more than anything else I have read by him it is a romance, just one in the context of exquisitely illustrated family dysfunction. I especially loved chapter 7 and intend to reread at least that chapter and maybe the whole book
Wonderful franzen novel. Not up to the standard of his later work but you can clearly see his narrative direction throughout much of this work. Stumbles a bit at times but very strong. Also as a side note, as someone that grew up off of 128 outside of Boston, the descriptions of the places, the people etc are spot on and refreshing. I knew them all
Having read The Corrections several years back, I wanted to try another Franzen novel. Because I live in greater Boston, this one especially appealed. It is a good read, full of finely wrought insights, musings, and observations as well as complex characters on complex, intertwined paths. As with all good novels, I feel like I've lived out a mini life vicariously and will carry it inside me. Books like this remind me of the strange power of a novel.
A superb writing style. Franzen has captured the essence of postmodern transience in middle class America, but as with the "Corrections", he makes sure that characters of substance emerge out of the emptiness.
Interestingly, his ability to keep sentences concordant and interesting is also fascinating. I counted a 17 line sentence at 13 words per line.