Did anybody but me wonder about the literary references in Jonathan Franzen’s Purity? I am resisting googling the reviews (except for PW). The Dickens reference to Great Expectations is explicit, but I found myself thinking about the way the murder is written and the kind of fever dream that Andreas Wolf’s mind eventually becomes, and thought of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, given how much force the murder assumes over time, given how deeply it is buried (pun intended). The querying of ideological purity also called to mind Jean-Paul Sartre’s play Dirty Hands, which perhaps really dates me or at least says something abut the literature and philosophy I was taught.
I hated the characters so much I almost didn’t finish the book. But it did keep hooking me, even though I would have shortened it. Tom’s and Andreas’s back stories are too long and tediously male-centric; Franzen’s editor ought to stand up to him a little more. Still, I am glad I read it to continue reckoning with the reaches of contemporary tastes and forms. Such a sea of difference between literary fiction and genre fiction.