I was really looking forward to reading Jonathan Franzen's Purity. I liked The Corrections, loved Freedom, and was sure I would thoroughly enjoy his latest. So wrong. Purity is like a massive buffet of what look like tasty treats: There are dozens and dozens of different things to eat, but only a bite or two of each, and, as it turns out, they all look prettier than they taste.
The plot (or should I say plots, since there are so many) is far too complicated to attempt to explain. There's a young woman named Pip (Purity) who doesn't know who her father is (or even what her mother's real name is), some Oakland anarchist squatters, German peace activists, a Julian Assenge-ish "truth-teller" in Bolivia and his many cult-like followers, a flashback to pre-wall-fall East Germany, a murder, several love stories, two high-minded, muck-raking journalists, a wheelchair-bound famous author, and dozens more. Much happens. No, MUCH happens. Way too much, for me. There was more plot than I could keep ahold of, and I started to feel like Franzen maybe couldn't either. He was like that guy on Ed Sullivan who had to keep all the plates spinning (that made me anxious, too). But that guy always succeeded. I'm not sure Franzen does.
In the end, I felt like the book was a mile wide and an inch deep, and for me, as a reader, I would much rather have writing that is an inch wide and a mile deep (Jane Austen, anyone?).