Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sarah Nicholson on Jonathan Franzen @EvolutionWoman #AmReading #NonFiction

Footsteps I Follow: Authors I Admire --- Jonathan Franzen - Freedom

While I've been primarily focused on writing non-fiction over the last decade, I am a very big fiction fan. I love to be drawn into a richly imagined narrative world. Jonathan Franzen’s deeply engaging novel Freedom is  one of these. It is an exploration of the disappointments of adult life and of what depth may emerge, through complication and pain, when the glow and bloom of youthful certainty, hedonism and adventure burn away.  Set inside the questions of this age, Franzen’s principle characters stare into the void of a classic existential crisis of meaning: Who am I? What is all of this about? What is it to be good? How can I be good when I’ve never been me? What is virtue? What has value?
Franzen's reflection on behalf of his character Walter exemplifies this: “He didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know how to live. Each new thing he encountered in life impelled him in a direction that fully convinced him of its rightness, but then the next new thing loomed up and impelled him in the opposite direction, which also felt right. There was no controlling narrative: he seemed to himself a purely reactive pinball in a game whose only object was to stay alive for staying alive’s sake.” Life in Freedom is not without hurt, pain and loss; but, neither is it without joy, awe, connection and celebration. Growth is found through grappling with the complexity of the resolution of the cost of the sorrows with the joys; the costs of living and the costs of not living. 

In the end Freedom’s characters seem to have found a way to love each other and the world; they have perhaps experienced love and forgiveness in its right measure. In this Freedom verges on a celebration of the tragedy of life in Nietzsche’s sense: “saying Yes to life even in its strangest and most painful episodes, the will to life rejoicing in its own inexhaustible vitality even as it witnesses the destruction of its greatest heroes … Not in order to be liberated from terror and pity, not in order to purge oneself of a dangerous affect by its vehement discharge… but in order to celebrate oneself the eternal joy of becoming, beyond all terror and pity — that tragic joy included even joy in destruction.”
I once heard Franzen speak at the Sydney Opera House. He said that he fell in love with his characters –  “full of contradiction and possibility” – and felt empathy with their life challenges. It was perhaps most compelling for me to hear him admit that he took “no moral position” on them. I think Franzen offers his reader a great gift in doing this. If you identify, as I did, with the struggle of Freedom’s characters to find their way inside this beautiful and difficult world, with the struggle to be good to one other and to themselves, with the struggle to love and to confront its costs,  then Franzen’s loving gaze and his empathic, non-judgmental curiosity become transmissions that flow through the river of the text and into you: that truly is a great gift.


The story of human evolution that we've been commonly told is one built on the shoulders of male heroism, competition and dominance; but, what if it isn't the whole story? This book tells the lost story of women in evolution.

The Evolutionary Journey of Woman: From the Goddess to Integral Feminism looks towards a future that brings together and reintegrates women's wisdom traditions through establishing a spiritual lineage for women that is traced all the way back to ancient Sumer with the goddess Inanna. Marrying the ancient wisdom traditions with adult developmental theory, this book charts a pathway towards the full spectrum of possibilities for women's self-actualisation in the coming Integral age. The Evolutionary Journey of Woman is academically rigorous, historical, philosophical and spiritual, but, most fundamentally, it is a narrative that will change the way you think about woman as a heroine of history.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Non fiction, Women's Spirituality
Rating – PG
More details about the author
Connect with Sarah Nicholson on Facebook & Twitter


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