St. Louis, Missouri, is a quietly dying river city until it hires a new police chief: a charismatic young woman from Bombay, India, named S. Jammu. No sooner has Jammu been installed, though, than the city's leading citizens become embroiled in an all-pervasive political conspiracy. A classic of contemporary fiction, The Twenty-Seventh City shows us an ordinary metropolis turned inside out, and the American dream unraveling into terror and dark comedy.
©1988 Jonathan Franzen (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
Franzen's freshman effort is striking. First, just gazing at the picture of Franzen on the back of the original novel and it makes me think this kid must have been gnawing on ideas for this book in his mother's womb. Seriously, he looks like he might be wearing the same deodorant his dad gave him at puberty.
Anyway, I was inspired to read this book because I was heading to St. Louis for a couple days and figured given the recent Ferguson-inspired race tensions, there might never be a more appropriate time to crack Franzen's novel about an Indian woman who takes over as the St. Louis chief of police. There is sex, violence, politics, intrigue, etc.. It is a thriller that aspires to be literary, or a thriller written by someone who is simply writing in the wrong genre.
The book is ambitious, messy (plot threads abandoned all over the place), inventive, cracked in places, but destined to stick around. I say that knowing that there are some serious Franzen haters out there. I also say that knowing this isn't his best work (by far). But in 1988, Franzen wrote a novel that seems to have almost perfectly captured the paranoid, xenophobic, social and race conflict that surrounds President Obama (birth certificate, etc). Imagine while reading this novel that Obama is Jammu and the United States is St. Louis and let the details slide from Ferguson to the Gateway Arch and there you are.
Franzen's fixation on the American family (both in its function and disfunction) is in pupae form here. Family dinners, tensions between spouses, extra-marital encounters, spoiled children, holiday tensions, they all germ here. His prose is great, if a bit uneven (brilliant in parts and boring in others). His plot is complicated. His setting masterful. Again, this isn't a masterpiece, but it was a clear indication of his future ambition and trajectory.
The narration was a bit off-putting at times. Meetu's representation of certain male characters was bizarre. She used high-pitched voices and strange verbal affectations. She seems confused about what a lisp sounds like, for example.
I am a Franzen fan but, at least in the audio version, this one was hard to follow and, therefore, it was challenging to get to know and love the characters. There are a lot of them to get to know.
The narrator did a great job. She could have helped the character development by pausing during breaks in the text. Instead, she plunged directly from one to the next, often leaving me to catch up because I hadn't realized there had been a character change.
I still gave it four stars. Franzen is amazing.
An interesting look at Jonathan Franzen as he began his career. The story had many interesting parts, the writing and use of language was pleasant. I enjoyed much of it, but in the end it was a little dull.
I enjoyed the many attempts of Meetu Chilana to spice up the story through her attention to the voices of many of the different characters. However, I was dismayed at the numerous words that were mispronounced throughout. While it is clear the narrator spoke some things differently because of her non-American English background, there were numerous places where the words were simply wrong. This is very frustrating to the listener.
The story is good, but not riveting. The narrator is distracting. Too many words are mispronounced, badly. Maybe English isn't her first language, but , look it up!
I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.
Anyone who enjoys novels that don't draw in the reader, have somewhat confusing story lines and at times just .. droned on without a point. And some of that is typical for Franzen, but he generally ties it all in together at some point. Not here.
I have listened to every novel by Franzen and this is the only exception to a man I consider one of the greatest two or three living authors.
None stick out, but this wasn't the fault of the reader. I think she did a great job with the characters and subject matter.
Scenes weren't the problem, so none. I finished the novel and, at the end, asked myself why. What was the point? I'm somewhat surprised Franzen's publisher re-released this rubbish, though I suppose it got me to
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