Franzen’s strengths as a writer lie in his characterization, craftsmanship, and storytelling more so than in any virtuosic flourishes or strokes of the pen. He crafts compelling characters of arcs authentic. His writing itself takes a backseat to a center stage occupied by the outsized cast of fully-formed personalities whose realism lingers in the mind of the reader.

Franzen does not make his writing talent the centerpiece of his novels, nor does he display the effortless virtuosity of some of the other big names in contemporary literary fiction. He misses the mark only in his intermittent efforts — contrived, artificial, and more clever than truthful — to interject into “Freedom” the postmodern tricks that some may see as obligatory in 21st-century fiction.

No, “Freedom” stands alone, not for its gimmicks, brainteasers, puzzles, or even its prose — although Franzen does sometimes turn a phrase. Rather, it works as an old-fashioned story of growth — or at least change.

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

by Christopher Vogler

Mr. Christopher Vogler sets forth a seminal structural analysis of storytelling on the heels of Joesph Campbell’s landmark book, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” Where Campbell’s work reads in a more scholarly, in-depth manner, Vogler simplifies and distills the involved ideas detailed by Campbell.  While The Writer’s Journey is sometimes repetitive and oversimplified, it is all the more accessible and useful for those faults.

Vogler’s book emphasizes structure above all — and less so the complexity and profundity of that structure’s underlying concepts. In this way, Vogler’s “Journey” serves as a useful handbook and reference tool for the working writer.


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