“This book should have been titled, "Bad People Making Terrible Decisions." I don't really know what Jonathan Franzen was trying to tell me, but I know what it sounded like: "Hey, if I stuff my book full of jerkfaces, and you still read it to completion, that means I win!" And yet, I feel like we are all losers, here.
Modern American literature is well-populated with the detestable. It's like we took the idea of the "flawed" protagonist and cranked it up to 11. I happen to think that the emotional impact of a main character's downfall is somewhat muted if that downfall is pre-emptive, but given the popularity of this trope, it's probably insufficient grounds for outright dismissal. So I'll just say that each of the characters are jerk cliches (The Bigot, the Tyrant, the Sluggard, et al.), the exploration of their state (and stasis) lacks subtlety, and there's no plot for me to denigrate. So what's left? Pretty good prose, actually. The writing itself is (mostly) consistent and well-tuned. So: two stars, and not an inch more.”