Freda, Joseph 1951-
FREDA, Joseph 1951-
PERSONAL: Born December 3, 1951, in Mobile, AL; son of Matthew J. (an Air Force pilot) and Betty (a homemaker; maiden name, Robbins) Freda; married Elise Andkjar (an artist and writer), June 9, 1974.
CAREER: Writer. University of New Hampshire, Durham, instructor, 1977-81; Digital Equipment Corporation, Merrimack, NH, senior software writer, editor, and systems manager, 1981-84; Tegra, Inc., Billerica, MA, communications manager, 1984-88, product manager, 1988-92, manager of creative services, 1992-94; Prepress Solutions, East Hanover, NJ, creative director, beginning 1994; Freda + Flaherty Creative, Kenoza Lake, NY, co-owner. Freelance writer, 1995—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Individual Artists Fellowship, New Hampshire State Arts Council, 1993, for Suburban Guerrillas; 2003 Heritage Award, Upper Delaware Heritage Alliance, for The Patience of Rivers.
Suburban Guerrillas (novel), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1995.
The Patience of Rivers (novel), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor of short stories to Coffee Journal, New Writers, Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, and The Literary Gazette.
SIDELIGHTS: Joseph Freda explained in Publishers Weekly that his debut novel, Suburban Guerrillas, did not begin as a novel, but rather as several short stories and a novella about the same characters in the same location. "Everyone who read it said it was a novel," he reported, "so I went back and pulled it together that way."
The resulting book is the story of a group of suburban neighbors in Hurley, New Hampshire, who discover a developer's intent to turn woodlands adjoining their properties into a site for cheap-looking condominiums. The cast includes Ed Jacques, who is a pillar of the community with the best-kept lawn in the neighborhood, but who also secretly lusts after Susie Stevens, a flight attendant with a neglectful husband. Susie is having an affair with Leonard Walker, whose wife is also cheating on him. Also central to the novel are the Walkers' long-time friends, Ray and Marisse Vann. Despite all of the sexual intrigue between these people, they manage to band together to sabotage the developer. Their tactics include changing signs advertising ranch houses so that they read "raunchy houses," as well as using radio-controlled airplanes to distribute leaflets printed with the structural problems inherent in the condos. According to Gary Krist in the New York Times Book Review, the situation escalates until Ray Vann "oversteps the bounds of legitimate protest with a single tasteless act." After this, the Vanns feel that they must leave the suburbs and return to Boston, hoping to achieve a fresh start. The author himself summed up the novel's theme in Publishers Weekly: "The book deals with the realities of contemporary life." Referring to the new condo development central to the plot, he added that "the characters react against that and try to take control of the environment. They're not always effective. The story moves forward on plot, but the impetus to read is also the development of the main characters—people in their late thirties and early forties—and their concerns."
Including Suburban Guerrillas on a recommended summer reading list, Merle Rubin in the Christian Science Monitor called the novel "beguiling." The reviewer went on to describe it as "a very believable portrait of ordinary, real, everyday people." Krist credited Freda with helping to revive the reputation of the suburban novel, and, like Rubin, offered a tribute to the author's characterizations: "His suburbanites may not be the most flamboyant characters in our literature, but they are decent, passionate, and reflective people, full of submerged yearnings that they attempt to accommodate in as ethical a manner as their natures will permit."
Freda published his second novel, The Patience of Rivers, in 2003. The plot centers around Nick Lauria, who is spending his last summer before college hanging out with his best friend Charlie Miles and working at his family's campground in Delaware Ford, New York, just up the road from where Woodstock is about to be held. Personal problems weigh heavily on Nick's mind. He is worried about being drafted and sent to Vietnam, and his family is in financial trouble because of poor judgment on the part of his father's business partner, who is also Charlie's father. The family's financial situation may force them to sell their campground and is putting a strain on his parents' already troubled marriage. In Publishers Weekly, contributor Gail Hochman wrote, "Freda is an engaging storyteller, and the likeable Nick anchors this well-paced tale." Hochman went on to suggest, "Some readers may be put off by the remoteness of the scene-setting (a long passage has Nick watching the moon landing, for instance), but Freda's well-observed family dynamics make this a solid if unspectacular effort." A Kirkus Reviews contributor also deemed The Patience of Rivers "somewhat slow-paced" but concluded that it is a "well-crafted and leisurely account of public strifes intersecting with private griefs."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2003, Whitney Scott, review of The Patience of Rivers, p. 846.
Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 1995, pp. B1, B4.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of ThePatience of Rivers, pp. 1551-1553.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Lawrence Rungren, review of The Patience of Rivers, p. 128.
New York Times Book Review, May 7, 1995, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, January 23, 1995, p. 44; November 11, 2002, Gail Hochman, review of The Patience of Rivers, p. 39.
Freda + Flaherty Creative,http://www.ffcreative.com/ (March 23, 2004).
Joseph Freda Home Page,http://www.joefreda.com/ (March 23, 2004).*