Jonathan Franzen‘s widely hailed epic American novel “Freedom” largely takes place in St. Paul’s Ramsey Hill neighborhood. The author’s grasp of the nuances of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in the pre-Bush years are seemingly spot on. It’s chock full of delicious details (W.A. Frost!) that will have locals nodding.
But Franzen’s grasp of St. Paul politics seems a bit dodgy. In the opening chapter, local DFL activist Merrie Paulsen laments the economic development policies of the city’s DFL-turned-GOP mayor Norm Coleman. “That’s one reason I’m working with Jim Schiebel,” Paulsen says.
Presumably Franzen’s referencing former mayor Jim Scheibel. But spelling nit-picks aside, the reference doesn’t seem to make much sense. That’s because, as locals undoubtedly recall, Scheibel preceded Coleman in the mayor’s office. By 1997, when this scene seemingly takes place, the one-term mayor was largely a non-factor in DFL politics. Coleman’s opponent that year was state Sen. Sandy Pappas, whom Coleman trounced by 18 percentage points.
Of course, that’s why it’s called fiction.