Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The bicycle in American literature

From Sam Tanenhaus's review of Jonathan Franzen's new novel:

...Patty is a “sunny carrier of sociological pollen, an affable bee” buzzing at the back door “with a plate of cookies or a card or some lilies of the valleys in a little thrift-store vase that she told you not to bother returning”; her husband, Walter, is a lawyer of such adamant decency that his employer, 3M, has parked him in “outreach and philanthropy, a corporate cul-de-sac where niceness was an asset” and where, commuting by bicycle each day, he nurtures his commitment to the environmentalist causes he will eventually pursue with messianic, and mis­begotten, fervor...They resemble any number of well-meaning couples for whom the home has become a citadel of aspirational self-regard and family life a sequence of ennobling rites, each act of overparenting wreathed in civic import---the issues involving cloth versus disposable diapers, or the political rectitude of the Boy Scouts, or the imperative to recycle batteries---and the long siege of the day heroically capped by “Goodnight Moon” and a self-­congratulatory glass of zinfandel...(emphasis added)

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