On the first of its back-to-back episodes this week, Parks and Recreation made an impeccable joke about Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. It was all the more impressive for being (a) a throwaway line that didn’t call attention to its own smartness, (b) not a dig at Franzen or his novel, and (c) totally in keeping with Leslie Knope’s character.
In the episode titled “The Fight,” Amy Poehler’s Leslie was prepping Rashida Jones’ Ann for a job interview — a job in city government that Ann was ambivalent about pursuing — and was plying Ann with a mountain of research material to cram for the job interview. As Leslie stacked up documents she thought Ann needed to study, she also tossed on a copy of Freedom. “And why am I reading this?” asked a baffled Ann.
“Because I’m almost done with it and I wanna talk to you about Patty!” said Leslie in a great rush of words mingled with emotion. It was the sound of a true, passionate reader, someone who wants desperately to talk about a book that has made a great impression on her. Thus, the 1,782nd reason to love Leslie Knope, and Parks and Recreation in general. (The 1,783rd reason? Snake Juice!)
And if Jennifer Egan was watching and felt at all jealous, I’d say to her, rest assured, it’s only a matter of time before Community makes an equally good name-drop about A Visit From The Goon Squad.