The novel is set for publication in September of 2010, however two excerpts (Good Neighbors and Agreeable) have already been released in The New Yorker in the past year.
After the huge success The Corrections was met with (literary controversies and journalistic disputes aside), the great expectations and comparisons are quite inevitable.
The first excerpt, Good Neighbors, chronicles some 15-20 years in the lives of Walter and Patty Berglund (again, the north european heritage) and their son and daughter, Joey and Jessica in St. Paul, Minnesota
The title refers, cornily and sarcastically at once (a trait that could only be attributed to Franzen, it seems) to the strange and at times hypocrite relationships the Berglund's carry on with their neighbors, Carol Monaghan (whose daughter, Connie, carries on a teanage infatuation with the Berglund's son, Joey), and the Paulsens (Seth and Marrie, your average keep-to-themselves-but-constantly-criticize-their-neighbors couple).
As in The Corrections, Franzen's prose in Good Neighbors is very detailed and life-encompassing, and the excerpt could easily be read a short story (though maybe not a very complete and gratifying one.)
The second excerpt, Agreeable, takes the readers back to Patty's adolescence, back in the 1970's. Again, the title is cruelly sarcastic, this time even much more so, given the story recounts Patty's 'agreeableness', which ultimately gets her raped by a fellow student. Indeed, it is this trait/vice which Franzen chooses to the cause for this unfortunate 'incident' as Patty's mother, Joyce, prefers to describe her daughter's rape:
"Being a very agreeable person, however, she went on dates with practically anybody who asked [...] Patty had given Ethan Post a mistaken impression. She was far too agreeable even when she wasn’t drunk. In the pool, she must have been giddy with agreeability. Altogether, there was much to blame herself for."
What other topics will Franzen treat in his new novel? What other eprotagonists will he focus his pointed pen at? I know he's left me curious what he's going to fill the rest of the novel's 550+ pages with...
VERDICT: BUY IT (as soon as it comes out..)