Magazine October 18, 2010, Issue

Discontents and Their Civilization

A small songbird perches on a vine in Lattimer Mines, Pa., October 11, 2010. (Stelios Varias/Reuters)
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus, 562 pp., $28)

Literary types like to complain that no one reads big, meaningful novels anymore. These days, they tend to blame punch-drunk publishers, or all-saturating technology, or the cast of Jersey Shore — anything and anyone, in other words, but themselves. Truth be told, it’s always been damned hard to write a big, meaningful novel. It’s much easier to excavate a historical curiosity or sample a local richness, to make a cat’s cradle of the Old Country and the New, to wax lyric about some last best place or work up a spun-sugar confection of verbal cleverness and formal dazzle about urban

Randy BoyagodaMr. Boyagoda, a novelist, is a professor of English at the University of Toronto, where he is also the principal of St. Michael’s College.

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I have long thought Steyn one of the best writers in America. Now I now know him to be a seer as well.

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