Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Ah, freedom!  Do any of us really know what it means?  Certainly El Jefe would like to be freed from writing these blog entries in the middle of the night, but alas, that doesn't appear to be in the cards.  We had a wonderfully bohemian evening at Chez Mademoiselle, in the heart of artsy Venice, where El Jefe truly feels at home.  Walking into a classic California bungalow, adorned with festive Christmas lights, breathing in the sweet aromas of Venice living---ahhhh!  And then to settle down after a long day with a glass of wine and to polish off the remainder of those prosciutto-wrapped bread sticks--was there goat cheese inside?  Who needs freedom when we've got lishy apps, vino, and good friends in abundance!  For dinner we had a delish beef stew and, uh oh, El Jefe can almost picture the dessert but cannot put her finger on exactly what it was.  The memory is failing, and worse yet, El Jefe fears that Red might have brought it and will now be offended at the second-in-a-row dessert dis!  (Don't take it personally, it's solely due to being overworked, or to inhaling the second-hand smoke of the Venice aroma--there was a second app, as well, that has been forgotten...)  But it was all delish!

Ahhh, Venice.

The book, Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, was nothing short of a momentous let down.  It also was nothing short of 600 pages, which contributed mightily to the let-down-ness experienced by those who powered through cover-to-cover. 

576 pages.  Really?

We had high hopes for this book, given what a big hit Franzen's previous book, The Corrections, had been.  But at 4.7, this was one of the all-time low scoring books in TCOB history, led by La Mademoiselle herself, who gave it a scathing 3.  Complaints ranged from the characters not being credible, to the book overall being too self-conscious and cliche', to having too much filler.  Across the board, this did not live up to The Corrections--it simply was missing the poignancy of that earlier novel and failed to move the readers.  Obviously we are a bunch of cold-hearted, nature-hating industrialists, for who else could resent a book that spent 100 pages on the plight of the helpless, nearly-endangered cerulian warbler?

The cerulian warbler.

One thing was for sure, it was hard (if not impossible) to like any character in this book (except maybe the warbler).  Each one was as flawed as the next, and while readers often connect (or at least sympathize) with flawed characters, the author obviously miscalibrated--both Walter and Patty were just annoying.  In all fairness, there were a few positive points made, one of which was that Franzen is skilled at putting into words complex and conflicting emotional states that aren't easily given to being described in writing.  Or is that just El Jefe's reaction to Richard Katz that we're talking about?

Our next meeting is, sit down, our 8th annual holiday book club!  And this year Pam Pam is being freed from hosting, with the Highlander taking up the torch in her own home.  We are scheduled for Thursday, December 9th, at 7:30.  By now everyone undoubtedly knows what to bring, but nonetheless we'll circle back with assignments closer to the time.  The book is Dave Eggers' Zeitoun, which hopefully everyone (including and especially the boys!) has started already.  Until next time...  xoej