Of all the ways to write about America at the dawn of the 21st century, this is, undoubtedly, the most mediocre. The phrase “swinging for the fences” is not apt to this book. Like the dull lives of the middle-class characters it details, exhaustively, over 600 pages, there is very little to make the heart race in Freedom. You don’t get the swagger of Tom Wolfe, or the indignation of Philip Roth. What you get is Jonathan Franzen, the milquetoast to end all milquetoasts, painstakingly doling out all the pet peeves of America’s chattering classes. It’s like reading a blog by the Normals, of Liberalton, where dissatisfaction is as endless as the stream of words. For all the handwringing, it’s a miracle the author could type.
When I was a kid I was obsessed with two things: Sherlock Holmes and the dubbed English language version of the Japanese TV show, Monkey. Seemingly, these two things have nothing in common; one is about an aloof, analytical, brilliant English detective – while the other is about an Asian guy in make-up doing bad karate. However, it’s clear from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows that director Guy Ritchie has made a connection between these two, and the resulting film is exactly the kind of escapist nonsense that defined British television back in the eighties. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is like magician David Blaine crossed with Chuck Norris, he’s a cross-dressing bohemian Kung Fu master who also dabbles as a sleuth.
Aliens aren’t born; they’re made out of fear. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry. I don’t intend to write a serious review of The Thing. Movie aliens aren’t projected out of existential dread. Their origins are rarely so subtle, or enlightening. Movie aliens are mostly crude manifestations of latent phobias…and blatant prejudice. Think of the penis-shaped monsters in Alien, or the dreadlocks worn by the Predator. Hate-filled extra-terrestrials are usually dreamed-up by hate-filled little men. I’m half-way sure the new version of The Thing is surreptitiously homophobic (but more on that later). It’s strange the way creatures from other worlds are always made out of the icky parts of things we find on Earth.