“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen

Like Ray himself, her granddad had bought the right to be privately eccentric by doing good public legal works.

Augmenting her reliable perimeter shooting was a growing taste for driving to the basket. She was no longer on speaking terms with physical pain.

Eliza was exactly half pretty.

The autobiographer now thinks that compliments were like a beverage she was unconsciously smart enough to deny herself even one drop of, because her thirst for them was infinite.

sounded like her unpretended true self.

because serious fans always need to feel uniquely connected to the object of their fandom; they jealously guard those points of connection, however tiny or imaginary, that justify the feeling of uniqueness.

There are few things harder to imagine than other people’s conversations about yourself.

Ellie turned out to be a strict constructionist when it came to exclusive sexual contracts.

At a certain point, their silence became remarkable and thrilling, and then, a while after that, exhausting and discouring.

Parents are programmed to want the best for their kids, regardless of what they get in return. That’s what love is supposed to be like, right? But in fact, if you think about it, that’s kind of a strange belief. Given what we know about the way people really are. Selfish and shortsighted and egotistical and needy. Why should being a parent, just in and of itself, somehow confer superior-personhood on everybody who tries it? Obviously it doesn’t.

But what if I know that I’m right now, and my future self is the one I don’t trust.

He and his wife loved each other and brought each other daily pain.

There was no credit to be earned for simply being good.

Whenever he was off it, he remembered it as fantastic and unbeatable and craved it, but as soon as he was on it again he remembered that it wasn’t fantastic at all, it was sterile and empty: neuro-mechanistic, death-flavored.

People came to this country for either money or freedom. If you don’t have money, you cling to your freedoms all the more angrily. Even if smoking kills you, even if you can’t afford to feed your kids, even if your kids are getting shot down by maniacs with assault rifles. You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck your life whatever way you want to. That’s what Bill Clinton figured out – that we can’t win elections by running against personal liberties.

He could see, reasonably enough, that she might care no more about her pug of a manger than he’d cared about the girls, all of them either drunk or extremely drunk, in whose overly perfumed beds he’d landed in the previous year, but reason could no more reach the pain in him than thinking Stop! could arrest an onrushing bus. The pain was quite extraordinary. And yet also weirdly welcome and restorative, bringing him news of his aliveness and his caughtness in a story larger than himself.

The state of emergency had waned enough for him to remember all the work he needed to be doing, but not nearly enough for him to do it.

He turned her very dusty alarm clock to check. “Two-seventeen,” he marveled. It was the strangest time he’d seen in his entire life.

He threw himself onto the bed and sobbed in a state to which all previous states of existence seemed infinitely preferable.

She could return to a hatred included by the thought that somebody cared about him.

That even a horrible marriage was less lonely than no marriage at all.