Franzen has turned his considerable novelistic talents to a kind of inquisitorial examination of the American ideal of freedom. He shows how freedom is negatively construed—focused on what we are free from and not on what freedom might be for, what worthy ends it might be used to pursue.
These are difficult times for defenders of liberty. With the ironically named Patriot Act (whose name is an acronym for Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), law enforcement agencies have gained greatly increased powers to search telephone and e-mail communications without a warrant.
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