Franzen’s Hartford Interlude

Jonathan Franzen’s sprawling, long-awaited novel, “Freedom” occurs all over the place, in gentrified St. Paul, Minnesota to the grime of the lower East Side New York City, with forays to the University of Virginia and Washington D.C.

But there’s also a keen little paragraph about Connecticut and the fate of one cool character’s bass player, Herrera, who moved from Jersey City to a place even worse:

Deciding that Jersey City was tooo bourgeois (!) and not depressing enough, Herrera had moved up to Bridgeport, Connecticut and settled in a slum there. One day he went to a rally in Hartford for Ralph Nader and other Green party candidates and assembled a spectacle that he called the Dopplerpus, which consisted of a rented carnival octopus ride on whose tentacles he and seven friends sat and played dirges on portable amps while the ride flung them around and distorted their sound interestingly. Herrera’s girlfriend later told Richard that the Dopplerpus had been ‘amazing’ and a ‘huge hit’ with the ‘more than a hundred’ people who’d attended the rally, but afterward, when Herrera was packing up, his van started rolling down a hill, and Herrera chased after it and reached in through the window and grabbed the steering wheel, which swung the van alongside a brick wall and pancaked him. He somehow finished parking up and drove back to Bridgeport, coughing blood, and there nearly expired of a ruptured spleen, five broken ribs, a broken clavicle, and a punctured lung before his girlfriend got him to the hospital…

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