by Zoe Pollock
Ross is a little freaked out by the ability of Franzen's novels to tap into the zeitgeist, and maybe even predict it a little. First with The Corrections which addressed the excess of the 1990s and was followed by September 11th, and now, with Freedom:
One thread in the narrative tapestry involves the Iraq War (there are neoconservatives, defense contractors, etc.), and so of course “Freedom” just happened to be published on the day that Barack Obama announced the end of combat operations in Iraq. But the thicker, more important thread involves a character whose secret obsession is population growth: He’s an unreconstructed Club of Romer, a Zero Population Growth guy who works for environmental causes but chafes against the movement’s unwillingness to say what it said boldly in the 1960s and 1970s namely, that there are just too many bloody people on the planet. ...
Now it would seem difficult, in an age when population control has fallen far down the list of left-wing cause célèbres (and for good reason), to imagine anything that would make this particular plot twist feel timely.
But then came James Lee.