by Jonathan Franzen
Friendship Quotes in Freedom
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
Katz couldn't have said exactly why Walter mattered to him. [...] And then there was the complication of Patty, who, although she'd long tried hard to pretend otherwise, was even less ordinary than Walter, and then the further complication of Katz's being no less attracted to Patty than Walter was, and arguably more attracted to Walter than Patty was. This was definitely a weird one. No other man had warmed Katz's loins the way the sight of Walter did after long absence. These groinal heatings were no more about literal sex, no more homo, than the hard-ons he got from a long-anticipated first snort of blow, but there was definitely something deep-chemical there. Something that insisted on being called love. (3.1.110)
This one is intense. Should we take his description at face value? Does describing things in terms of sex and drugs just come naturally to Richard? Whatever his motives, we certainly can't question the validity of his observation: that he's more passionate (in his own cool, detached way) about both Walter and Patty than either of them are about each other.
He gravitated socially to hall mates from prosperous families who believed in carpet bombing the Islamic world until it learned to behave itself. He wasn't right-wing himself but was comfortable with those who were. (3.2.27)
This can be read as an example of Joey's habit of associating with people who make him feel superior. But the details – the specificity of "prosperous families," the violence of "carpet bombing," the arrogance of "behave itself" – make us think something else is going on here. Maybe it's this: living with Blake, for example, Joey could feel powerful in being intellectually superior. With these guys, standing apart from their aggressive rhetoric, Joey can feel morally superior. But how did this work out for Joey? What does he really believe?
"Are you making lots of new friends? Meeting lots of people?"
"Well, good good good. Good good good. It's nice of you to call, Joey. I mean, I know you don't have to, so it's nice that you did. You have some real fans here back at home."
A herd of male first-years burst out of the dorm and onto the lawn, their voices amplified by beer. "Jo-eeee, Jo-eeee," they lowed affectionately. He nodded to them in cool acknowledgement.
"Sounds like you've got some fans there, too," his mother said.
"My popular boy."
This sort of seems like a set-up. Know what we mean? As in, it's kind of hard to believe that these things would happen simultaneously. So why does Franzen set it up like this? Is it to align Patty with a bunch of drunk college guys? Or to emphasize how effortlessly Joey manages to endear himself to people? One thing it definitely does is reinforce Patty's loneliness on the far end of the telephone, while Joey is here on the front end, surrounded by people chanting his name.