Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Purity' Is Another Triumph for Novelist Jonathan Franzen

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Purity' Is Another Triumph for Novelist Jonathan Franzen

Article excerpt

When*7 p.m. Sept. 17

Where*Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road

How much* $31-$36, includes tickets for 1-2 people and one copy of "Purity."

More info* 314-367-6731;

A novel by Jonathan Franzen

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 563 pages, $28

On sale Tuesday

It's impossible not to admire Jonathan Franzen's latest novel, "Purity," for its finesse at addressing so many timely issues. The transition to online journalism, the rise of whistleblowers, and even the crisis in student debt all figure in a narrative that shifts back and forth in time, in the manner of "Pulp Fiction." The novel also has historical and geographical scope, ranging from today's tech-savvy San Francisco Bay Area to the dark days of a divided Berlin.

In short, there's quite a lot to cover. But Franzen, who grew up in Webster Groves, has close to 600 pages to get that accomplished. And for the most part, "Purity" is an intriguing read.

The cast includes the title character, a young woman named Purity Tyler, who prefers to be called Pip. Through plot machinations far too complicated to get into, Pip attracts the attention of Andreas Wolf, a Julian Assange-style whistleblower who has quite a few secrets of his own one of which threatens his future as an advocate for truth and justice.

Pip is reluctant to join Andreas' staff, but needs a job that pays well enough to significantly alleviate the burden of paying back her student loans. That's also partly the motivation for her involvement with another employer during the course of the story: journalist Tom Aberant, who runs an online publication and turns out to have a deep and troubling connection to Andreas.

As "Purity" fulfills its arc, Pip comes of age, Andreas comes to terms with his true nature, and Tom comes to realize that some things aren't better left unsaid.

Some years back, Tom Wolfe excoriated American novelists for focusing on small, personal stories to the exclusion of those that explicitly address the social and political forces that drive our lives. …

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