Freedom from Freedom

Okay, maybe I’m not done thinking about Freedom yet, end-of-year forgiveness aside, because I read this article, and it’s by Bret Easton Ellis about Charlie Sheen, which, I know, I know, but it’s actually interesting and makes some points, and as a toss-off comment there’s this bit about how it’s totally “Empire,” whatever that means, to not like Freedom because one finds the characters “unlikable.” Which—–aside from the fact that I’m not sure what the “Post-Empire” way of not liking or liking Freedom would be, and aside from the fact that this point feels shoehorned into an otherwise fairly well constructed list of this-that’s—is a statement I kind of agree with (said reasoning being Empire) even as I disagree with the plainspoken assumption that the book is great and you’re a dick if you think otherwise.

Because I get it. Got it. A little bit. Freedom, freedom, we’re all free. Ride our machines. Act like ninnies. Great. Good point. And I still didn’t like it. But: it had nothing to do with the fact that I found the characters unlikable. I loved the aspect of the book, when you get down to it. I loved that essentially each and every character in the book was a jerk in their own special jerk-like ways. None of them were unredeemable jerks; I liked American Psycho just fine and that book is nothing but unredeemable jerk-ness. (Right?) Frankly, I say: bring on the jerks. Let’s get more books about characters I personally hate, characters I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with at a cocktail party, characters I’d rather dissolve into the margins to escape from than spend time with in the text. Bring on the boors!

What I didn’t like about the book were the fundamental aesthetics of the thing: it was long and drawn out and chunky and clunky and gratingly predictable and inherently sort of dull. It wasn’t good story. And it didn’t offer enough else aesthetically to make up for the fact that nothing really interesting happened. I’m nearly finished with War and Peace, a book over twice the length of Freedom, a book which, frankly, has moved more in the two or three hundred pages I’ve just read than Freedom did across its entire length. I really loved The Corrections when I read it a couple years back and I plan to read it again someday and it’s highly possible I’ll read that book and realize it was everything I just said Freedom was, which is sad, maybe; I do seem to recall that The Corrections featured a cast of miserable, deluded jerks, itself. It’s also possible I’ll love The Corrections again the next time I read it and it’s also possible I’ll give Freedom another go some day and it will click better for me the next time through; the opening two hundred pages or so seemed pretty solid, I think, right? From what I recall? I don’t know.

Point being, you’re perfectly free to like or not like Freedom because or despite the characters were all wackadoodle. I liked the jerks—I just wish they’d been given a better story to tool about in.

(Matt linked to the original article, by the way, so blame him for the above mess. Personally. (We’re all on a first name basis here on the Internet now, right?))