Purity by Jonathan Franzen, published September, 2015 and listed on The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015. The book is about storylines that could have been. Storylines that were dropped too soon, undeveloped. But Franzen did create some really vivid characters and several textured stories showing an interest in and understanding of the art of whistleblowing. Most of the characters end up as leakers and journalists with journalists being in 6 point type.
You have Pip Tyler, the daughter of a very odd mother who refuses to disclose either of their real names, birth dates, family origin. Due to her $130,000 in student debt, Pip can only afford to squat with anarchists in a house in Oakland. She later discovers that her first name is actually Purity. (Oh, that would be a hard decision, Pip v. Purity.) It’s also the theme – purity – that runs through the book.
Andreas Wolf is an East German whose family has high Party connections. He creates an award-winning website for investigative journalism, The Sunlight Project (i.e. WikiLeaks) and exposes massive secrets of the world. His staff of naïve interns and crazy sharp hackers live with him in Bolivia while on the lam. A self-described peace activist, he charms Pip into working for TSP. She has no idea why he’s interested in her but he easily promises to find her bio father. Andreas is charismatic, handsome and knows how to sell. He runs through women quickly, the young ones at least, as they are flattered to be chosen by a man who’s in the global press each day. As the relationship with his mother unfolds, you begin to understand why he never had a chance.
American Tom Aberant is also an investigative journalist and about halfway through, you get that the book is actually about the two of them, Tom and Andreas. Their story crosses continents and goes back and forth between their good and bad luck…women, being first to publish and holding the darkest of secrets. Tom’s wife, Anabel, a billionaire through family money, refuses to take any of it because it’s blood money. (The MaKasgills are in the meat industry.) She also has a great and continuous need to discuss feelings.
My best accolades to the author for his sense of quirkiness – a dimwit’s stealing of a missile from a munitions factory to let his GF sext herself while riding it – and the underlying sense of dysfunction between children and parents. There is definitely some beauty to his writing. The book also reeks of sexism. The female characters are portrayed as a bit dumb, undereducated and low in the aspiration department. (This feeling was further cemented after reading an interview with Franzen in The Financial Times where he announced that he did not compete with women.)
The author also wrote Freedom and The Corrections. It’s a massive read – 638 pages – and I give it 3 margaritas in the Cool Mona rating system.