The advance copy of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom came with a bonus CD.[1] I’m not sure what was on it. Perhaps Franzen reading his novel’s twenty-six-page prologue? A “book trailer”? A Sims™ module in which you, too, can alienate your neighbors while helping to gentrify St. Paul’s Ramsey Hill neighborhood? I’ll never know. I threw it out, to subtract a few ounces from the tare weight of this 562-page boxcar of a novel. But, as we now know, that CD was the least of the extratextual fanfare trailing Freedom into the public eye.

First there was an accidental endorsement when President Obama was photographed with the book on vacation. Then came the critical...


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