Of course Franzen wrote the autobiography—just as he wrote each word of the novel [Freedom]—and placed it in the narrative in a considered way; so why shouldn’t he tinker with the text, inflecting it with his own ideas and language? But for a realist novel to succeed, certain central conceits must remain intact. If the writer tells us that a text is the autobiography written by a character, and that that text figures as agent of action within the story itself, then we must believe it to be a real thing. And a real thing would be written in a consistent and believable voice, Patty’s voice. Otherwise, the delicate gravity of a novel’s solar system gets thrown too far out of whack, and its planets start to spin out of orbit.
The Book Club: The Baffling Autobiography : The New Yorker. I agree completely: this is perhaps the largest flaw in a deeply flawed novel.