IKE | One Sentence Says It All
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One Sentence Says It All

Jonathan Franzen

One Sentence Says It All

There were plenty of reasons to buy Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Freedom, but the clincher came when I read the following sentence:

When it became unavoidable that Richard Katz return to the studio with his eager young bandmates and start recording a second Walnut Surprise album—when he’d exhausted all modes of procrastination and flight, first playing every receptive city in America and then touring progressively more remote foreign countries, until his bandmates rebelled at adding Cyprus to their Turkey trip, and then breaking his left index finger while fielding a paperback copy of Samantha Power’s seminal survey of world genocide flung too violently by the band’s drummer, Tim, across a hotel room in Ankara, and then retreating solo to a cabin in the Adirondacks to score a Danish art film and, in his utter boredom with the project, seeking out a coke dealer in Plattsburgh and taking 5,000 euros of Danish government art funding up his nose, and then going AWOL for a stretch of costly dissipation in New York and Florida which didn’t end until he was busted in Miami for DWI and possession, and then checking himself into the Gubser Clinic in Tallahassee for six weeks of detox and snide resistance to the gospel of recovery, and then recuperating from the shingles he taken insufficient care to avoid contracting during a chicken-pox outbreak at the Gubser, and then performing 250 hours of agreeably mindless community service at the Dade County park, and then simply refusing to answer his phone or check his e-mail while he read books in his apartment on the pretext of shoring up his defenses against the chicks and drugs that his bandmates all seemed able to enjoy without too seriously overdoing it—he sent Tim a postcard and told him to tell the others that he was dead broke and going back to building rooftop decks full-time, and the rest of Walnut Spring began to feel like idiots for having waited.

You’ve got to admire the writing chops of anyone who can pull off a sentence like that. If you are a fan of high-wire circumlocution, check out some of the doozies that Ed Park reviews in his New York Times essay: One Sentence Says It All.

David Isaacson
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