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Die Korrekturen. 8 Cassetten.

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Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award An American Library Association Notable Book Jonathan Franzen's third novel, The Corrections, is a great work of art and a grandly entertaining overture to our new century: a bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama that stretches from the Midwest at mid-century to Wall S Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award An American Library Association Notable Book Jonathan Franzen's third novel, The Corrections, is a great work of art and a grandly entertaining overture to our new century: a bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama that stretches from the Midwest at mid-century to Wall Street and Eastern Europe in the age of greed and globalism. Franzen brings an old-time America of freight trains and civic duty, of Cub Scouts and Christmas cookies and sexual inhibitions, into brilliant collision with the modern absurdities of brain science, home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental healthcare, and the anti-gravity New Economy. With The Corrections, Franzen emerges as one of our premier interpreters of American society and the American soul. Enid Lambert is terribly, terribly anxious. Although she would never admit it to her neighbors or her three grown children, her husband, Alfred, is losing his grip on reality. Maybe it's the medication that Alfred takes for his Parkinson's disease, or maybe it's his negative attitude, but he spends his days brooding in the basement and committing shadowy, unspeakable acts. More and more often, he doesn't seem to understand a word Enid says. Trouble is also brewing in the lives of Enid's children. Her older son, Gary, a banker in Philadelphia, has turned cruel and materialistic and is trying to force his parents out of their old house and into a tiny apartment. The middle child, Chip, has suddenly and for no good reason quit his exciting job as a professor at D------ College and moved to New York City, where he seems to be pursuing a "transgressive" lifestyle and writing some sort of screenplay. Meanwhile the baby of the family, Denise, has escaped her disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man--or so Gary hints. Enid, who loves to have fun, can still look forward to a final family Christmas and to the ten-day Nordic Pleasurelines Luxury Fall Color Cruise that she and Alfred are about to embark on. But even these few remaining joys are threatened by her husband's growing confusion and unsteadiness. As Alfred enters his final decline, the Lamberts must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.


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Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award An American Library Association Notable Book Jonathan Franzen's third novel, The Corrections, is a great work of art and a grandly entertaining overture to our new century: a bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama that stretches from the Midwest at mid-century to Wall S Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award An American Library Association Notable Book Jonathan Franzen's third novel, The Corrections, is a great work of art and a grandly entertaining overture to our new century: a bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama that stretches from the Midwest at mid-century to Wall Street and Eastern Europe in the age of greed and globalism. Franzen brings an old-time America of freight trains and civic duty, of Cub Scouts and Christmas cookies and sexual inhibitions, into brilliant collision with the modern absurdities of brain science, home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental healthcare, and the anti-gravity New Economy. With The Corrections, Franzen emerges as one of our premier interpreters of American society and the American soul. Enid Lambert is terribly, terribly anxious. Although she would never admit it to her neighbors or her three grown children, her husband, Alfred, is losing his grip on reality. Maybe it's the medication that Alfred takes for his Parkinson's disease, or maybe it's his negative attitude, but he spends his days brooding in the basement and committing shadowy, unspeakable acts. More and more often, he doesn't seem to understand a word Enid says. Trouble is also brewing in the lives of Enid's children. Her older son, Gary, a banker in Philadelphia, has turned cruel and materialistic and is trying to force his parents out of their old house and into a tiny apartment. The middle child, Chip, has suddenly and for no good reason quit his exciting job as a professor at D------ College and moved to New York City, where he seems to be pursuing a "transgressive" lifestyle and writing some sort of screenplay. Meanwhile the baby of the family, Denise, has escaped her disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man--or so Gary hints. Enid, who loves to have fun, can still look forward to a final family Christmas and to the ten-day Nordic Pleasurelines Luxury Fall Color Cruise that she and Alfred are about to embark on. But even these few remaining joys are threatened by her husband's growing confusion and unsteadiness. As Alfred enters his final decline, the Lamberts must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.

30 review for Die Korrekturen. 8 Cassetten.

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    July 2012 Facts concerning Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections •Print runs of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections are believed to be the largest in recorded history. •Although no reliable count exists, experts believe that the number of printed copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections runs into the hundreds of millions in the United States alone, with perhaps more than one billion copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections in existence worldwide. •Jonathan Franzen's nove July 2012 Facts concerning Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections •Print runs of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections are believed to be the largest in recorded history. •Although no reliable count exists, experts believe that the number of printed copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections runs into the hundreds of millions in the United States alone, with perhaps more than one billion copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections in existence worldwide. •Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections was expected to be the Next Big Thing, but buyers became bored when they realized the book couldn't be tickled like Elmo, or fed like a Tamagotchi, or collected like Beanie Babies. The unprecedented print run, as well as low sale numbers and high return rates, led to overcrowding. Some bookstores resorted to giving away copies for free, but recipients usually passed them on to unsuspecting friends, like fruitcake. •By 2004, it is believed that every used bookstore in the continental United States contained at least two dozen copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections on its shelves. •However, according to rumor, for every copy of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections you can see, ten more are hiding inside the walls or beneath the floorboards. •Professional ex-libris-terminators worry that the infestation has spread from used bookstores to private homes. In fact, you may have several copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections on your bookshelves RIGHT NOW, and you may not even know it. •In 2006, several bookstores along the East Coast and in and around Portland, OR, were found to contain nothing but copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections, lying in their own filth in crowded stacks and boxes. •Following this discovery, Congress passed legislation mandating population controls for Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections. According to regulations, copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections may not outnumber other books that are not Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections by more than 2 to 1. This keeps the copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections from becoming too self-conscious. •However, overcrowding persists, and some bookstores have been forced to destroy entire stacks of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections to make room for books that are not Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections. •To escape this fate, some of the more clever copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections have taken to disguising themselves as books in Tim LaHaye's and Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind series. Few manage to find good homes. Some bolder, braver copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections occasionally venture forth into the Ts, to hide among Tolstoy and Trollope, but are usually ambushed by gangs of Edith Wharton novels and never seen again. •Sadly, due to gridlock in the current session of Congress, no action has been taken lately, causing tens of millions of copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections to be rounded up and destroyed in the last two years. •Although the world of books has developed many religious beliefs regarding what will happen in the after-livre, Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections remains firmly agnostic. •This is just as well, since all pulped and recycled copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections are eventually reincarnated as copies of Jonathan Franzen's novel Freedom. --- A friend gave me Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections a few years ago (hers had had a litter of baby Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections, free to a good home), and I've had it burrowed in the shelves ever since. Finally took steps to get rid of the infestation, but I decided to read it first. And now it's time to put Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections out of its misery. Its characters range from dull to awful, the story takes way too long to go nowhere, and yet the writing--the goddamn writing!--is damn fucking good. Jonathan Franzen can craft a delicious sentence, I'll grant him that. But I had little desire to read this book and I have no desire to read his others, so I'm going to box up this copy of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections, drop it at the back door of the nearest thrift store, and run like hell. Goodbye, little Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections. I hope you find a good home. Now if you'll excuse me, Edith Wharton awaits.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    4/19/17 update: I appreciate that so many people have "liked" this review and/or commented on it, whether we agree or not. Please know that I will not be interacting with any comments as I remember almost nothing about this novel other than the repulsion I felt toward it. I cannot add anything worthwhile to a discussion or engage in any intelligent discourse unless I read it again.... which I think we all know I am not going to do. That being said, anyone using the comments section to make a per 4/19/17 update: I appreciate that so many people have "liked" this review and/or commented on it, whether we agree or not. Please know that I will not be interacting with any comments as I remember almost nothing about this novel other than the repulsion I felt toward it. I cannot add anything worthwhile to a discussion or engage in any intelligent discourse unless I read it again.... which I think we all know I am not going to do. That being said, anyone using the comments section to make a personal attack on my character or ability as a reader (a decade ago, mind you), will have their comment deleted. Kindly agree to disagree and move along. ********** A seemingly unending stream of word vomit. I can think of no other way to describe this thing. I really, really despised almost everything about The Corrections. I finished it solely so that I could write a horrible review and have it be valid. At no single point before the last 10 pages of this 566-page monster did I feel a shred of sympathy with any of the characters. There were several moments where I thought Franzen would have been better off writing dialogue-for-the-average-Joe instead of the trumped up and out of place Dawson's Creek-esque vocabulary in almost every human interaction. His insistence on using the "25-cent word" at every turn made reading the story choppy at best... aggravating and unenjoyable. I also couldn't help but see the author in a lot of his characters' worst personality traits. Annoying hipster-lecher I'm-better-than-capitalism-but-still-depend-on-it Chip. Whiny too-good-for-anyone Gary. Ungrateful I'm-a-bitch-but-require-all-your-love-and-attention Denise. The parents? Alfred is the only one for whom I felt any sympathy and that didn't happen until the last dregs of the book... and I think maybe even then it was a knee-jerk reaction at being so close to the book being over. Enid's issues rubbed me the wrong way for many reasons, not the least of which being that I could see my own mother in her... which means, I suppose, that Enid was probably the most well-represented character in the novel. The secondary characters were almost entirely a sorry lot with personalities to the extreme in any number of directions - too smart, too stupid, too needy, too plain, too EVERYTHING. I know that I'll never understand the praise this book received from critics and readers... and I'm ok with that. I do wish, however, that I could meet some of the people who relate it so easily to real life. Meeting them, perhaps, would truly terrify me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    While reading The Corrections I really understood the meaning of ‘schadenfreude’ because I despised almost every character in this book so much that the more miserable their lives got, the more enjoyment I took from it. And when a shotgun was introduced late in the novel, I read the rest of it with my fingers crossed while muttering "Please please please please please please..." in the hope that at least one of those pitiful shits would end up taking a load of buckshot to the face. The Lambert’s While reading The Corrections I really understood the meaning of ‘schadenfreude’ because I despised almost every character in this book so much that the more miserable their lives got, the more enjoyment I took from it. And when a shotgun was introduced late in the novel, I read the rest of it with my fingers crossed while muttering "Please please please please please please..." in the hope that at least one of those pitiful shits would end up taking a load of buckshot to the face. The Lambert’s are a Midwestern family, and while the grown children have all moved to Philadelphia and New York, the parents have remained in St. Jude. The father, Alfred, was a workaholic middle manager for a railroad and he's the kind of joyless repressed bastard that considered all pleasures frivolous and taking a coffee break as a massive character flaw. Now retired, he’s suffering from Parkinson's and dementia. He deserves it. Enid is the mother. (Seriously, Franzen? Enid? I’ve lived in the Midwest all my life and have never met an Enid. I know you were making a point on how square the old school Midwesterners are, but that‘s pushing it.) She’s a delusional nagging harpy from hell who aims her passive aggressive attacks at whichever family member has recently burst the bubble of whatever fantasy she is currently clinging to. Through most of the book, Enid has her heart set on one last family Christmas at the house in St. Jude, and the evil bitch will stop at nothing to get it. Gary is the oldest and a successful investment adviser in Philly, but he married a woman who wants all ties severed with his family and has a special way of getting his sons to join her in her efforts. Torn between trying to placate his wife and his mother while letting their denials of reality make him crazy and trying to be 'the responsible one', Gary is running himself ragged to avoid admitting that he’s depressed. Someone should pimp slap him so hard that his fillings fly out of his teeth. Chip, the middle son, is a waste of skin with a special talent for self-destruction. He torched his academic career as a professor just as he was about to get tenure by having an affair with a student and then becoming obsessed with her. He’s now a mooch in New York working on a screenplay so horrible that it'd make a Michael Bay movie look good by comparison. He’s also the kind of douche bag who thinks that getting rivets put in his ears and wearing leather pants is cool even though he’s over thirty. Denise is the one character that I actually had some sympathy for. A daddy’s girl who adopted Alfred’s work ethic, she’s a successful chef of an upscale restaurant, but she’s also got a messy personal life, including trying to figure out her sexuality. At least she’s the one member of this dysfunctional hellspawned family that knows she has issues and tries not to deceive herself any more than most people do. The weird thing is that even though I loathed the Lamberts and almost every supporting character, too, that I actually enjoyed this book. I usually can’t stand stories where all the characters’ problems are self-inflicted emotional wounds due to a basic refusal to admit and face reality. However, I have to admit that I found this compelling reading. Maybe I was into it for all the wrong reasons. Namely, that I hated the Lamberts so much that their continued suffering brought sweet tears of joy to my eyes. That’s probably not what Franzen intended, but he had to create some incredibly vivid characters and do justice to their pathetic lives to make me hate them so very, very much.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    “And when the event, the big change in your life, is simply an insight—isn't that a strange thing? That absolutely nothing changes except that you see things differently and you're less fearful and less anxious and generally stronger as a result: isn't it amazing that a completely invisible thing in your head can feel realer than anything you've experienced before? You see things more clearly and you know that you're seeing them more clearly. And it comes to you that this is what it means to lov “And when the event, the big change in your life, is simply an insight—isn't that a strange thing? That absolutely nothing changes except that you see things differently and you're less fearful and less anxious and generally stronger as a result: isn't it amazing that a completely invisible thing in your head can feel realer than anything you've experienced before? You see things more clearly and you know that you're seeing them more clearly. And it comes to you that this is what it means to love life, this is all anybody who talks seriously about God is ever talking about. Moments like this.” The Lamberts are experiencing corrections. Not economic ones like the rest of the country, although money does underline everything they worry about. The whole family, in a myriad of ways, is each on the verge of their very own unique self-destruction. “THE CORRECTION, when it finally came, was not an overnight bursting of a bubble but a much more gentle let down, a year-long leakage of value from key financial markets, a contraction too gradual to generate headlines and too predictable to seriously hurt anybody but fools and the working poor.” There may be big events that finally shove us forward, backwards or sideways, but in the aftermath most of us can find, with some self-evaluation, that the crash in our lives was preceded by a series of miniature inadvisable decisions. Sometimes we have to crash to correct. Alfred is the father, a Kansan, who believed in hard work and honest labor. He has always been moody, self-contained, in many ways... unknowable. At the age of 75 he has come down with Parkinson’s and is quickly becoming a burden, impossible to bear, for his wife Enid and his kids. He has trouble controlling his bowels and this manifests itself in an almost comic, if it weren’t so tragic, series of delusions of talking turds pursuing him relentlessly through the corridors of his own mind. He was an amateur chemist and made an important discovery that for unknowable reasons (it will be revealed later in the book) refuses to fight for his rights to be richly rewarded. It drives his oldest son Gary nuts. ”Gary didn’t know which version of Alfred made him angrier: the spiteful old tyrant who’d made a brilliant discovery in the basement and cheated himself out of a fortune, or the clueless basement amateur who’d unwittingly replicated the work of real chemists, spent scarce family money to file and maintain a vaguely worded patent, and was now being tossed a scrap from the table…. Both versions incensed him. I admit there are several moments when I too felt the urge to strangle Alfred. He is from a generation and geography where a man makes decisions, and never feels the need to explain himself. He doesn’t care how angry or upset you are. Tears nor threats will move him to give you the reasons that led him to his decisions. Gary is an investment banker in Philadelphia. He has a beautiful wife named Caroline and three sons. He is fighting with his wife more regularly than normal, and she insists that he is clinically depressed. He believes, and is not just paranoid about this issue, that his wife is manipulating events behind his back, subtly turning his sons against him. She denies everything, concedes nothing. He finds her in pain from her back and realizes as angry as he is…. ”That her face was beautiful and that the agony in it was mistakable for ecstasy--that the sight of her doubled-over and mud-spattered and red-cheeked and vanquished and wild-haired on the Persian rug turned him on; that some part of him believed her denials and was full of tenderness for her--only deepened his feeling of betrayal.” He has a haughty disdain for nearly everyone. He talks down to his mother. He is furious and almost unhinged with his father. He is dismissive of his siblings. His lust for his wife is inspired as much by his desire to try and control her as it is about physical contact. Her fights with him heightens all kinds of feelings of desire. He is almost snobbishly gleeful in his fidelity to her, but as he revels in his superiority there are also other issues knocking around in his head. ”It occurred to Gary, as the young estate planner leaned into him to let a raft of sweltering humanity leave the elevator, as she pressed her hennaed head against his ribs more intimately than seemed strictly necessary, that another reason he’d remained faithful to Caroline through twenty years of marriage was his steadily growing aversion to physical contact with other human beings. Certainly he was in love with fidelity; certainly he got an erotic kick out of adhering to principle; but somewhere between his brain and his balls a wire was also perhaps coming loose, because when he mentally undressed and violated this little redhaired girl his main thought was how stuffy and undisinfected he would find the site of his infidelity--a coliform-bacterial supply closet, a Courtyard Marriott with dried semen on the walls and bedspreads…. each site over warm and underventilated and suggestive of genital warts and chlamydia in its own unpleasant way--and what a struggle it would be to breath, how smothering her flesh, how squalid and foredoomed his efforts not to condescend…” So really he is faithful because it is unhygienic to cheat. Chip is the middle child, a teacher at a college when we first meet him. He involves himself with a student who pursued him relentless not so much out of sexual attractiveness, but that she needed his help on a paper for another class. Classic barter system; that unfortunately for Chip, is discovered. After he is fired he writes a breast obsessed first draft of a screenplay called The Academy Purple. It is really horrible. He loses yet another girlfriend, Julia who's boss decides that she needs to upgrade boyfriends. Julia has a husband from Lithuanian who needs someone with Chip’s skills. (???) With zero prospects in NY Chip decides to fly to Lithuania to help defraud American investors; greed can always be exploited. After cratering over the loss of his young college lover that left him snuffling his furniture for any residual essence of her nether regions, Chip is getting over lost girlfriends quicker helped by fantasy detours about a bartender he just met. ”If he couldn’t get Julia back, he wanted in the worst way to have sex with the bartender. Who looked about thirty-nine herself. He wanted to fill his hands with her smoky hair. He imagined that she lived in a rehabbed tenement on East Fifth, he imagined that she drank a beer at bedtime and slept in faded sleeveless tops and gym shorts, that her posture was weary, her navel unassumingly pierced, her pussy like a seasoned baseball glove, her toenails painted the plainest basic red. He wanted to feel her legs across his back, he wanted to hear the story of her forty-odd years.” Things don’t go well for Chip in Lithuania, but he was so damn close. ”He didn’t understand what had happened to him. He felt like a piece of paper that had once had coherent writing on it but had been through the wash. He felt roughened, bleached, and worn out along the fold lines.” Denise is the youngest sibling, a successful chef who finds herself the main negotiator between her parents and her brothers. She has a history of being attracted to older men which probably has something to do with her uneasy relationship with her father. After her marriage to a colleague, twice her age, falls to pieces she is done with men and decides to try her luck with women. With mixed results. She gets an opportunity of a lifetime when she meets a young entrepreneur, a member of the recently wealthy who decides he wants to open a restaurant. He wants Denise to be his chef and he wants her in his bed. She resists, barely, intent on not letting sex destroy this opportunity for her. Kudos for trying to break a bad pattern. Good thinking...but sleeping with his wife nullifies all that careful arms length tango she carried out so well with the husband. ”Her car was like a tongue gliding down the melty asphalt streets, her feet like twin tongues licking the pavement, the front door of the house on Panama Street like a mouth that swallowed her, the Persian runner in the hall outside the master bedroom like a tongue beckoning, the bed in its cloak of comforter and pillows a big soft tongue begging to be depressed, and then.” The problem with Denise is she has a hard time resisting people who find her attractive. She enjoys the fact that older men really appreciate her shapely body. The sexual attraction that males and females have for her compels her forward in a relationship long past the time when any of it is still pleasurable for her. She loses everything for something she really didn’t want in the first place. I haven’t even gotten to the mother Enid. She is at that point in her life where she is ready to go do things and finds her husband ”moldering and devaluing” before her very eyes. He is an albatross around her neck; and yet, she still loves him. She desperately clings to the idea of the whole Lambert family coming together one more time in St. Jude for Christmas. If you are someone who likes to read books where you like the characters you might struggle with this book. I find that a lot of people who say they don’t like this book abandon it before completion. It is natural to want someone in a story that you can root for. As Jonathan Franzen unpacks these characters he exposes those things that are generally hidden beneath our clothes like a nasty wart near a nipple or cellulite on our butt cheeks. The type of flaws we would prefer to be seen in half-light, not the glaring brightness of daylight. I started out not liking any of these characters, their flaws were dominating their inherently good qualities, but as Franzen so deftly unspools more revelations I became more and more sympathetic. What we have to remember is that none of us knows someone’s whole history. We get pieces and sometimes those are the best pieces, and sometimes we only see someone at their worst moment. We never have the whole story that might make sense out of the senseless. We have a tendency to ignore our own flaws and castigate those same flaws in others. You might be starting to understand where I’m going with all this. These characters are human, maybe too human, but that could be because Jonathan Franzen may have wrote one of the most honest books you’ll ever read. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  5. 4 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    My first Franzen. Really I don't even know how to start this review. I could begin, I suppose, by discussing the pure perfection of his writing. It is REALLY DAMN GOOD. If I could break reviews down into little sections, he'd get 10 stars for his style/technique. Excellent. On the other hand, I can't give this a full 5 stars. Or can I? Yeah, it was well written. The depth of the characters and the storyline maybe just a hair short of phenomenal. ??? Yet... Why do I bother with fiction? I feel gui My first Franzen. Really I don't even know how to start this review. I could begin, I suppose, by discussing the pure perfection of his writing. It is REALLY DAMN GOOD. If I could break reviews down into little sections, he'd get 10 stars for his style/technique. Excellent. On the other hand, I can't give this a full 5 stars. Or can I? Yeah, it was well written. The depth of the characters and the storyline maybe just a hair short of phenomenal. ??? Yet... Why do I bother with fiction? I feel guilty, as if I should be learning something instead. Is the desire to read this type of fiction some sort of voyeuristic fetish? Peek into some fictional character's life and say, "Hell, I've got it good!" Really, there is plenty of non-fiction out there to get you into an attitude of gratitude right quick. (see: books on holocaust, genocide, great depression, etc...) Do I, as a reader, get anything out of it at all, beyond perhaps some mindless entertainment? Do I have to? David Foster Wallace once said, "Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being." And you know, he's right. In The Corrections, Franzen absolutely nails (not literally) each member of a dysfunctional (average!??!) family. Mom borders on neurotic. Dad is demented. Kids all screwed up in their own way. The following excerpt: "He'd had the sense moments earlier that Caroline was on the verge of accusing him of being depressed. and he was afraid that if the idea he was depressed gained currency, he would forefit the right to his opinions. He would forefit his moral certainties; every word he spoke would become a symptom of disease, he would never again win an arguement." Fricking BRILLIANT. And real. Somehow Franzen manages to put the "fun" in dysfunctional. Far from "mindless", The Corrections tunes you in to each family member and their flaws. In reading, you may recognize yourself in one of the characters, stop and think, "oh no! I'm that jerk!" Or, in a perhaps better scenario, say, "Ha! That bitch is just like my sister!" Whatever the case, you KNOW these people Franzen writes about. You work with them. God forbid, you are related to them! But it is real. All the imperfections, the misunderstandings, the yearning, the love, the hate.... It IS about being a human being. And it is done very damn well. This is NOT my last Franzen.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    JONATHAN FRANZEN'S TOP TEN RULES FOR WRITERS (as given to The Guardian on 20 Feb 2010) with additional commenty comments by me : 1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator. Hmm, well, maybe. I can't think Hugh Selby had very friendly thoughts when he wrote his brilliant Last Exit to Brooklyn, it reads like he wants to shove all of us into a landfill site and have done with the human race. But quite often that's a good attitude for a writer to have. Some books you walk around and p JONATHAN FRANZEN'S TOP TEN RULES FOR WRITERS (as given to The Guardian on 20 Feb 2010) with additional commenty comments by me : 1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator. Hmm, well, maybe. I can't think Hugh Selby had very friendly thoughts when he wrote his brilliant Last Exit to Brooklyn, it reads like he wants to shove all of us into a landfill site and have done with the human race. But quite often that's a good attitude for a writer to have. Some books you walk around and poke sticks at, they're designed that way; some books you take your machete and hack into the meat and the filth and the hell with any bystanders getting splattered, they shouldn't be bystanding so close if their fine suits mean that much to them. Some books you can have round for tea with mama. So I disagree with rule 1. 2 Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money. Garrison Keillor musta got a real fat wad for Lake Wobegon then. Likewise Dickens. I'm not sure what this rule really means. Maybe it's just like a tie with a drawing of a fish on it. 3 Never use the word "then" as a ­conjunction – we have "and" for this purpose. Substituting "then" is the lazy or tone-deaf writer's non-solution to the problem of too many "ands" on the page. Okay JF okay. Deep breaths - put your head between your legs. 4 Write in the third person unless a ­really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly. Agreed - I recently jacked in a novel because I found to my horror that it was written in the SECOND person. You do this, you say that. Nooooooooooooo! That's just wrong. Only one book gets away with that, which is An American Tragedy by Theodore Drieser, which is quite brilliant. But after that one - no second person! You is fired! (Now... E Annie Proulx - look away now!) 5 When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it. Naw, I think I see what he's getting at but naw. If you marshall your research well, you create a world, you're doing good. Who was that woman who lived in a box in England and wrote about Alaska? I reviewed it too - my memory is going down the drain. Ah yes, The Tenderness of Wolves. Anyway, that was pretty good. So no to rule 5. 6 The most purely autobiographical ­fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto­biographical story than "The Meta­morphosis". Sounds like bollocky bollocks to me. Does this actually mean anything? 7 You see more sitting still than chasing after. Ah, grasshopper, you have much to learn. Come on, JF, you're a great writer, don't bullshit us. 8 It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction. Also wrong because these days employers can firewall all porn and gambling and social networking sites. (But here, they don't think of Goodreads as a social networking site, so shhhh, don't tell them....!) 9 Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting. He's galumphing again. 10 You have to love before you can be relentless That's from a Christmas cracker, i bet. ********* Anyway, The Corrections is one of the few books which made me want to find out what the guy wrote next, which was Freedom (what a crap title). The Corrections has one really naff section, where it turns into a stupid farce about post-Soviet Lithuania and gangsters and stuff, really bad. Otherwise I thought it was tough, tender, relentless even, but sadly, full of interesting verbs. Fail yourself, Jonathan.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Franzen’s writing is impeccable. Not only does his understanding of complex, familial relationships fascinate me, but his ability to capture these characters—all five of them, I might add—with such depth...I think that is what really drew me in as a reader. I mean, these are people who are so flawed emotionally and so utterly selfish inherently, and yet each of them has this capacity for loving one another even while recognizing their inability to stand each other for more than five minutes at a Franzen’s writing is impeccable. Not only does his understanding of complex, familial relationships fascinate me, but his ability to capture these characters—all five of them, I might add—with such depth...I think that is what really drew me in as a reader. I mean, these are people who are so flawed emotionally and so utterly selfish inherently, and yet each of them has this capacity for loving one another even while recognizing their inability to stand each other for more than five minutes at a time: in a sense they are more human than most humans. And Franzen knows how to write a sentence, my God. All this book did was remind me why I love to read. Honestly, I try to give five stars sparingly, but this one I fully endorse. I think what makes it better than Freedom is that I walked away from this with a knot in my stomach (I really felt something here!). Seven year-old Chip being left alone at the dinner table until it was late enough for him to fall asleep on his placemat bothered me. Juxtapose that with the tenderness Chip shows his dad toward the end of the novel, and you start to wonder whether this man was ever really the emotionally unavailable tyrant that you thought he was. Either way, this just serves as a huge reminder for me to appreciate the way things are now while my kids are still young, because it’s probably not always going to be this simple.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A friend once told me that Jonathan Franzen has been quoted as saying he deliberately rips off influential late-century American authors such as Pynchon, DeLillo and Roth, but tries to make the prose less difficult, more easily consumed.* Leaving aside for a moment the irony of that statement in light of his outrage over the Oprah thing, that is stupid. Those authors are not great because their writing is accessible when the complexity is removed. It was when one of the main characters in The Corr A friend once told me that Jonathan Franzen has been quoted as saying he deliberately rips off influential late-century American authors such as Pynchon, DeLillo and Roth, but tries to make the prose less difficult, more easily consumed.* Leaving aside for a moment the irony of that statement in light of his outrage over the Oprah thing, that is stupid. Those authors are not great because their writing is accessible when the complexity is removed. It was when one of the main characters in The Corrections was talking to a hallucinated turd that I thought, I should just put this down and take a stab at Against the Day, or re-read Gravity's Rainbow where a (literal) shit scene can actually be hilarious and fascinating. In addition to weak-pynchonian characters (human and fecal), this novel suffers from a lack of strict editing (too many peripheral characters, too many inconsequential sub-sub-subplots), from unsympathetic characters (I don't really know what the point is if everyone is horrible and always has and always will hate or be spiteful to everyone around them), from an inconsistent, sudden ending (last chapter: no one will ever change. epilogue: everyone changed and is now charitable of heart!), from an irritatingly-rendered main theme (we all try to CORRECT ourselves and one another but we are ultimately unable), and from its own determined effort to be Epic (even a glowing review I found of this book said Franzen might as well have called it "American (Something)"; he compares one of the settings to the rest of the country in the first paragraph, for god's sake). The "misery of aging" theme was effective, and I appreciated the exploration of a marriage that was bad for no more complicated a reason than that the husband and wife weren't right for one another. Otherwise I had no use for Franzen and his truckloads of loathing. * I wrote this review in 2007 and no longer recall being given this quote. It's been rightly pointed out since that I shouldn't have used it without a citation (and should have been skeptical about its authenticity). But this book still sucks.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    An open letter to my former copy of The Corrections: First I want to tell you that it isn’t you, it’s me. People and books grow apart just like people and people grow apart. I remember years ago when I read you that there were certain things about you that I really liked; but the truth is, I just wasn’t really that into you. Yeah, that little stunt with Oprah was pretty cute, and I recall we had a laugh, but I’m just at that point in my life where I need to make space for new experiences – open An open letter to my former copy of The Corrections: First I want to tell you that it isn’t you, it’s me. People and books grow apart just like people and people grow apart. I remember years ago when I read you that there were certain things about you that I really liked; but the truth is, I just wasn’t really that into you. Yeah, that little stunt with Oprah was pretty cute, and I recall we had a laugh, but I’m just at that point in my life where I need to make space for new experiences – open myself up to what other potentials are out there. And you’re kinda crowding me a bit. I know you asked me “Where did it all go wrong?” I could hear your muffled whine from the trunk as I drove you with the other books to Goodwill. At first, I wished that I had put you at the bottom of the bag beneath the crushing weight of the duplicate copy of Shaw’s works and the crap translation of Les Miserables. But that’s just being petty. I’ll answer your question honestly. Some books, like people, have a character flaw. Yours, however, is an author flaw. I’ve just found myself more and more baffled by the man who crafted you. The tipping point came last week when I read Ben Marcus’s piece referencing your author and that was really the final straw. Don’t take this that you are terrible, because you’re not. It’s just that I personally think that your author is, and I don’t want to live in the literary world he wishes to create. Thus, the breakup. Over the years you’ve been with me, my friends have changed. I know that you’ve been less than happy about this. I’ve seen the way that you scoff at all of those Christine Brooke-Rose novels on the shelf near you. Across the library there are now two whole shelves of Vollmann, growing to three. I made it clear that none of your family will be welcome in my house, so you’ve been reduced to crossing your arms and pouting while I’ve invited in Pynchon, Joyce, Gaddis, Gass, McElroy, Marcus. You started claiming that I hate you, but I don’t. Those three stars are really three. So trust me, this is the best thing for both of us. Until you find a new home I think you’ll like it here. Before leaving the Goodwill I browsed amongst their book selection and saw 27 of your identical twins here. Perhaps you’ll be able to pass the time with them sharing stories about how each of you was dumped.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I love this novel as much for what it turned out that it wasn’t as for what it actually was. The opening vignette was a deep dive into the subterranean conflicts of a middle class home in Middle America. We're immediately focused on the agony and resentment of the emasculated American male wrought by decades of marriage to a dutiful wife who dutifully domesticates the family and becomes an expert in polishing the façade. In our initial meeting, the retired Alfred has dug himself such a deep tren I love this novel as much for what it turned out that it wasn’t as for what it actually was. The opening vignette was a deep dive into the subterranean conflicts of a middle class home in Middle America. We're immediately focused on the agony and resentment of the emasculated American male wrought by decades of marriage to a dutiful wife who dutifully domesticates the family and becomes an expert in polishing the façade. In our initial meeting, the retired Alfred has dug himself such a deep trench in his family’s basement (and his existential ennui at the loss of his manly day job) that he hasn’t been able to finish a chore in weeks that once would have taken him half an afternoon. Meanwhile, the wonderfully unromantically named Enid bustles around the home trying to prop both it and her husband’s dignity up… but do so in a way that no one else would ever notice. Petty squabbles about money abound (the gun introduced the first act is a five thousand dollar check that drives the action), intergenerational embarrassment and sadness are the foundation of most of the action, and sexuality twists itself upwards through every crack it can find. It had all the props set up for a modern, literary version of the sort of mid-century Gruff, Male American Author treatise on the emptiness of the nuclear family experiment that I just can’t possibly read one more of. And you know what, it is that. Those books are certainly in its lineage. It takes that framework at the start, it uses its metaphors and wrings out its sentences to paint us such a minutely detailed picture we can’t possibly mistake where we are and why. But here’s the thing… this book is no purebred. It’s the bastard child of a mixed family that slowly reveals that whatever its direct parentage, there’s a Wonderland at the end of this rabbit hole. Once its got its feet under it, trust me, you do not want to miss this tea party. This book is Tolstoyan in its ambitions, and Dickensian in its scope. It’s postmodern in its experiments with form, and very traditional in its choice of focus. The constant stream of its psychological examinations suggests the heights of modernist fancy, but episodes of amazingly straightforward vulgarity and uncomfortably direct descriptions peppered throughout the narrative reminds us that this book was written in a country that was about to produce the Jersey Shore and insist that grandmothers become aware who Paris Hilton is. I need all the literary labels my education has exposed me to to make sense of it. This isn’t in the interest of dust-jacket advertising, but an attempt to nail down each of the tools that Franzen makes use of here. The farther I got into this book, the more I penetrated into the heart of what makes this particular family tick, the more enthralling it became. The narrative reminded me of that Charlize Theron Dior commercial where she walks through the long, Versailles like hallway and strips off her couture as she goes. Only in this version, her makeup and her jewels would have gone as well, and her famous Turn Plain and Slightly Overweight for Oscar character from that movie would appear at the end. The more this book stripped down, the more I couldn’t look away. Franzen’s arrangement of his character’s appearances and re-appearances is wonderfully stage managed. Despite the long and in depth trips inside the heads of each family members, in my view, the book is ultimately arranged to be an examination of the psyche of the Great American Male after all, the father of the family, Alfred. Alfred the engineer. Alfred the emotionally distant husband and father. Alfred the upright and uptight symbol of all that is Good and Right. His children are broken mirrors of their own reaction to growing up with this man, and his wife a terribly sad monument to how many different ways a human body and mind can possibly find to twist around and protect a piece of stone that can’t see and then can’t bear to admit just how many cracks it has developed. Chip, the first child to appear, gives us what appears to be the real lay of the land at the start. His chosen persona is the biggest douchebag you could possibly imagine, of the sad college professor in a leather jacket variety. Complete with earring and Derrida tome attached to his hip (but of course). Every sentence about him is just gross, and gets grosser. Chip lives in gross. Its his identity and his philosophy as a teacher to reveal the grossness of society and corporate culture to the youngsters he teaches. But even that is much too time-honored a position (gross professors being the one thing each generation seems to produce enough of, no problem). Chip has to descend even further to pretending that he lives that life while in actuality living another one that depends even more on falsity. In a post-communist state. Online. With men living in the ruins of the sort of oppression he claims to fight. Then finally, finding a tiny bit of honesty in the most ethically horrifying, physically threatening place that he’s ever been. Chip seems an unlikely candidate to be his father’s favorite. But only on the surface. For all his douchebaggery, for all his poses and his (view spoiler)[ sleeping with students (hide spoiler)] Chip is the embodiment of the Future. He is so alien to his father, but his intelligence is such big part of his identity (just smart enough to figure out all those big, effete words and sound like he knows what he means), and that very alien-ness seems like such a logical progression to the future that, for Alfred, he is the son he feels like he can rely on as a guide to a time he doesn't know. He is the son he sees as being a part of the way things are now, which, as we’ll find out, is gross and ugly, disguised with better clothes and shinier apartments. Chip is your best guide to that sort of world, because if nothing else, he’s sure to know the password, and he is in absolutely no position to judge you for being there. It’s sad, but less and less surprising, that the slowly deteriorating Alfred clings more and more to this son. He can show him things and know that shock will not overwhelm him. Besides, one thing mom-and-pop generation Alfred and anti-corporate World Bank/IMF protesting late-90s Chip can agree on is that corporations are basically the worst. For different reasons, yes. And the degree to which Alfred admits this is much less. But these two guys are in the same foxhole, however they want to dress it up. Gary, the second son, is the next child, is apparently the Good Son. The son who stayed on the straight and narrow. He grew up fairly good looking, married a beautiful blonde wife, and became successful in that nebulous American Buisness-y sort of way that allows you to buy a house with a ridiculous amount of gadgets you don’t need and to fight with your wife about nothing at all. His sexuality is not in question. He had children, boys even, and grilled in the back. He stayed faithful to his wife (if for fascinatingly sick reasons) and tried to make his parents happy by coming home for the holidays. He’s focused on his career and Making It, and he wouldn’t dream of having any art with any sort of genitalia in it. But, of course, this makes him his mother’s son. Mothers are the guardians of tradition and the passers-on of small moments, and to believe they’ve done their jobs to the fullest this is what they need from their children. The fact that Gary and his wife clearly reject everything about his parents doesn’t matter, because they do so far away and not in his mother’s hearing. Their sex lives are disturbingly full of it, but their public life is not. Unsurprisingly then, inevitably, our time with him is consumed by a revenge quest for his father. But because this is twentieth century America, on the verge of a twenty-first century of virtual lives and desk jobs, and not fifteenth century France, that revenge quest has to take place in the nebulous world of the corporate jungle. There’s a delightfully absurd sequence in the middle where (view spoiler)[Gary and his sister go to a convention so he can see about getting that revenge, and then drown in an absolute sea of jargon and amazingly false advertising. By the time Gary faces the dragon, he’s panting and frothing at the mouth so much he doesn't even realize he forgot his armor. It’s a bit of an anti-corporate rant that goes on for a little too long, but its cleverly entwined with Gary’s near psychological breakdown that I can’t hate it. (hide spoiler)] Gary is a study in trying way too hard, and he was the first character I would have spent time with. His battles with his cruel, self-conscious/self-confident wife through their children were worth the price of admission to his chapters alone. If his story is the most obvious of all, it is touching for all that, because it would have been the easiest to solve very early on. If only daddy’s attention hadn’t been turned in a completely different direction. Then Denise, the sole daughter of the family, is the last of the family to reveal herself. The choice is the most deliberate and necessary of them all. She appears many times earlier in the novel, but always as a projection of another member of the family- her mother or her two brothers. Our first trip inside of her head is an entirely different story. She is the beating heart of the novel and the child whose story is her father’s undoing. Fathers and daughters- it couldn’t have been otherwise. The gradual revelation of Denise’s past and her present struggles are intersected with the ongoing trials and tribulations of her two brothers, which provide a context and a foil for her development. She has enough layers to unravel that it takes a long time to get to her core and therefore, this novel’s, and we need some breaks to remember why it took her so long to peel them all back. More importantly, she is the character with the most choices to make. She is a woman standing at a fascinating cusp of history for the options of American women. She’s just old enough that if her story had ended, after a few more years of working than usual, with two kids and a dog in her hometown, it would have been more than understandable. She’s also just young enough that there’s more than a small chance that this won’t be her story if she has any desire that it be otherwise (and its clear from the beginning that she’s too smart and driven to believe. She’s young enough that she has choices about her sexuality that exist in a more straightforward and mentally acknowledge-able way than would have been the case even a decade earlier (lesbianism, bi-sexuality, adultery that isn’t life ending, flings and not relationships), but she’s old enough that those choices are still coded in a very unfortunate and twisted way (who is the butch one, guilt about what she does and does not give to men and why). But it’s all there, and, as with most choices that women make, there’s guilt and to spare waiting for her for whatever choice she decides she wants. We are introduced to a woman of apparently complete, decisive decision. A woman who is a model for the new generation of strong, working women who don’t need to wear shoulder pads to be awesome at their job. She rolls her eyes at her brothers and kicks ass at work. She takes care of her parents and offers more kindness than anyone else we encounter. But it becomes clear, quickly, that, of course, she’s nothing of the kind. We’re taken through the horror house of mirrors that is her (and most other female teenagers’) adolescence, meeting her insecurities and the misguided places that she channels her dreams. We see how this carries through for years afterwards into her adult life as she doubles down on the thing she knew she never should have done in the first place and understand exactly why. The more honesty we encounter, the more guilt, the more self-doubt comes up the surface. There’s this beautifully handled part towards the end of the book where we see Denise reject one choice after another that could possibly have made her happy. Because she’s not after happiness. She was taught that there’s something more than happiness. That happiness is false and lesser than a God who accepts only the Shoulds, and scorns, secretly, offerings from those who are not worthy. And, of course, tells you that you are worthy, or doesn’t tell you anything at all. Denise’s last rejection of her best chance for self-acceptance and an end to her burdens confirms her fate as what she’ll always be: her father’s daughter. When the family finally ends up together for “one last Christmas,” I don’t think that it will be a surprise to hear that it is a ridiculous hot mess, and full of big and small revelations of various kinds. It probably also won’t be a surprise to hear that even at the crescendo of a moment where each family member has pretty much come to a place where they are the most themselves they’ve probably ever been with each other… there’s a lot of both good and bad in that. I’m comfortable saying that people generally have at least one trait about them that’s admirable/courageous/sympathetic/fascinating and generally have something that’s going to be as petty, small, ridiculous, idiotic or plain mean about them. We get that in each of them. It makes sense, because this Christmas is the break point for the family. They fill it up full of everything they are and then the glass shatters when they hit just that right note. I love the way that Franzen used Christmas in this novel, and had it come back and back again, slowly driving everyone mad with its insistence on coming every year, and its urgency in being more important than anyone cares to admit. I’m not sure I like the ultimate message. It seems to come too close, after everything it goes through to complicate things, to reverting to that rebellion of baby boomers that only once we free ourselves from our domestic poses, and the sacrifices demanded by the ideal of the happy nuclear family will we be free. I would agree that to a certain extent this is true, if your pose is as apparently false as these people’s are, or as based on ridiculous motives. I don't agree with it in the world we live in now where our families are more about choice than ever before. But ultimately I allowed it to pass because I think that Franzen complicates it enough that I don’t think that his condemnation is this straightforward. Franzen attaches a tone of nostalgic elegy to the end of Alfred’s life and his undignified final years that isn’t just about the fact that this is about Dad and you kind of come off as a terrible person if you completely hate on well-meaning, limited by his time, morally upright Dad. Instead, Franzen finds something to genuinely mourn about the apparent loss of the expectations that the family puts on each other. Because while we spend a lot of time talking about how expectations limit our authenticity as people and how genuine our relationships can possibly be, we spend less time talking about how expectations means holding people to a standard. It means providing a motivation for each person involved to suit up, so to speak, and put their best foot forward, and be the best it can be. It tells us, gently, toward the end, that sometimes roles are necessary armor. Sometimes they help us become who we want to be, rather than who we are.(view spoiler)[ Sometimes by telling ourselves we are not the kind of person who murders the co-worker who slept with our daughter, we find a way not to do it (hide spoiler)] . As long as we don’t allow a role or the rejection of a role (which is a role in and of itself) to obsess us, to negate us, and to rule our lives (which is the mistake that this family makes), then there is a use for it. This is a message that is still relevant for me in an age where divorce is always an option and where family is more of a choice (at least in theory) than it ever was. About the only other flaw I can find with this novel is that its choice to focus on this very specific man who is from a very specific time and place, with children who came of age in an era with a very specific societal context, and surrounded by the domestic, mass produced items of life in America in some particular years means that readers who cannot access that particular setting or time period are to some extent excluded from the emotional impact of it. While I was fascinated with how amazingly deliberate Franzen was in rendering these details, it was an appreciation for artistry that produced my trust that he knew what they could talk about. This book is for people who are about ten to fifty years older than I am. I don’t say this in a terrible way. I’m saying that this book is for them, in the way that any other gift would be under a Christmas tree. It’s a statement of sympathy, love and solidarity with a particular generation and the limits they labored under and the freedoms they struggled to negotiate. But their struggles were not mine. Even Denise, the closest I came to finding myself inside of this book, fought with self-identifications and phantom restrictions that came off as dated to me. Her earnestness and her anger reminded me of the older kids and the culture I idealized as a child, of the actors on Felicity, not of people I knew. Thus, I can tell that this book is a masterwork. I can admire its craft and the clearly towering intellect behind it. I can laugh at its jokes and fall into its extended metaphors, but in the end it’s a masterwork that just isn’t for me. I’m peeking into the intimate conversation of slightly older strangers, and I just don’t belong. It’s strange, isn’t it? I’ve felt perfectly at home in more countries and times than I can count, or even in worlds that never were, but just one generation away and it’s alien nature pricks me on every page. For me, there’s this odd continuum where God is in either in the very particular and known or in the completely removed and impossible to completely understand. The Corrections just had the misfortune to fall into the category of just-familiar-enough-that-it's-slightly-off. But you know what, it still did its job. Because it makes me wish that my generation will have something so particular, something that hits the tin ear of anyone years too young or far too old. Those sort of crafted, made-to-order narratives are rare, and as I said, a gift to anyone who encounters them. I want one, too!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Ferro

    I'd never read THE CORRECTIONS before and let me assure you, I am well aware of how cool it is these days to bash Jonathan Franzen, but after meeting him at a reading in Ann Arbor, I decided it was finally time to sit down with his Big Boy and give it a thorough read. In person, Franzen is a kind and funny, if somewhat shy, guy. And for someone who has put up with as much criticism as he's received (some of which is certainly well-deserved), he's remarkably down-to-earth and "normal." All that s I'd never read THE CORRECTIONS before and let me assure you, I am well aware of how cool it is these days to bash Jonathan Franzen, but after meeting him at a reading in Ann Arbor, I decided it was finally time to sit down with his Big Boy and give it a thorough read. In person, Franzen is a kind and funny, if somewhat shy, guy. And for someone who has put up with as much criticism as he's received (some of which is certainly well-deserved), he's remarkably down-to-earth and "normal." All that said, sure—he was doing a public reading and on his best behavior no doubt, but still—let's focus on his fiction for a bit. THE CORRECTIONS was quite an astounding bit of work. The multi-layered storyline of a Midwestern family scattered across the country making their miserable way through a brand new 21st century perfectly captured what it felt like for a subset of select Americans at that time. True, much of Franzen's characters' concerns may not be universally relatable, but to me, that doesn't distract from the quality of his writing and his clear penchant for telling an engaging, witty, and devastating story of grief, loss, and family turmoil. That said, Franzen can indeed be a bit wordy; some of his sentences are a little highfalutin for their intended purpose and his word choices occasionally make you feel as if one of his aims for this book was to bump thesaurus sales, but if an author keeps you reading despite looking over at a dictionary once in a while, I'd say they still did their job. In all, I'm not looking to make some grand statement here about how we must all rethink our collective "Franzen hate" and slap him on the cover of TIME once again, but a writer's most important work (for me, at least) will always be what they put on the page within their books. Is Franzen a brilliant writer? I believe so. Does he still deserve readership? Absolutely. Will his books connect with everyone in this new era of American modernity? Probably not. But for those who enjoy reading about a tangled web of unhappy people, struggling to make the best of a world that is all their own alongside insightful musings of a bygone America, then THE CORRECTIONS is well worth a read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Imagine owning a bonsai tree and snipping, cutting, making small corrections from the plant’s growth, guiding it and making it become what you want it to be. Imagine an engineer with a sharpened pencil making schematics and rigidly following mathematical, precise principles, forming a design that fits a specific purpose and allows for only infinitesimal error. But these ways of making corrections are not ways to deal with humans, this is not how people exist, there are no hard fast rules, no blac Imagine owning a bonsai tree and snipping, cutting, making small corrections from the plant’s growth, guiding it and making it become what you want it to be. Imagine an engineer with a sharpened pencil making schematics and rigidly following mathematical, precise principles, forming a design that fits a specific purpose and allows for only infinitesimal error. But these ways of making corrections are not ways to deal with humans, this is not how people exist, there are no hard fast rules, no black and white lines that distinguish right and wrong. Jonathon Franzen, in his 2001 publication The Corrections, describes for us the Lambert family. Growing up and together in the fictional Midwestern city of St. Jude, the family consists of father and mother, Alfred and Enid, and there three children: Gary, Chip and Denise. If a family is a microcosm of a society, then Franzen has illustrated the strengths and weaknesses, the good the bad and the ugly of the Lamberts to be a reflection of Western culture’s wins and losses, and maybe more, to show that to win or to lose, ultimately, is a poor measure for who we are and how we live. In casting his characters, Franzen has demonstrated his mastery of both the language and for a descriptive characterization power that is Dickensian. A literary progeny of John Barth, Richard Ford and Walker Percy Franzen is well suited for this ambitious, epic and thought provoking examination of our society as exhibited by the Lamberts. Alfred is a retired railroad engineer who is by nature cold and aloof, and has been a domestic tyrant over Enid for the length of their marriage. The story finds him suffering from Parkinson’s and the early onset of dementia. Franzen shows us glimpses of the sad world he has inherited and the fruitless seclusion he has made for himself. Enid is the hopelessly optimistic but haggard matriarch of the family and it is her desire to bring the family together for “one last Christmas” that forms the conflict and denouement of the narrative. Judgmental, paranoid, illusory, self-righteous and prone to self-aggrandizing hyperbole Enid is haunted by the family that she wanted but never attained. She poorly conceals her disappointment of her children and of her marriage. Gary, the eldest son, is a successful Philadelphia banker and lives with his wife, Caroline, and their three children. Franzen has cast Gary in the role of villain, he and his wife epitomize all that is wrong and ugly with western civilization: narcissism, crass materialism, selfishness, elitism, banality, insincerity and a superficial ideal for the family that poorly conceals a pompous self interest. To Gary, and especially the deplorable Caroline, family is just the appearance, not the underlying love and affection. Chip is a failed professor, and Denise a once successful restaurateur and both have stumbled because of underlying psychologically damaged self esteem manifested by sexually self-destructive behavior. Franzen illustrates their ups and downs, and ultimate redemption, through a dynamic exploration of the truly binding ties of family. But to Franzen’s credit, and to the eventual cathartic resolution of the story, he also shows some good to them all. Alfred and Enid, for all their conceits and failings, love each other and their family, even to the point of deep sacrifice. Chip and Denise are able to look into themselves and carefully examine their filial relationships and come away with a sense of self worth and meaning. Even Gary (who Franzen has fun with, making him and Caroline almost caricatures of despicable self importance) truly loves his boys. Deftly using subtle Biblical / C.S. Lewis Narnia references, Franzen carefully reveals that for all of our outward failings, there may be some hope for us yet. Darkly humorous, intelligent, delicious, painful, outrageous, sad, thought provoking, aggravating, overwhelming, compelling, restorative and ultimately hopeful, Franzen’s The Corrections is a very, very good read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Howard

    The critics loved The Corrections. Published in 2001, it won the National Book Award for fiction for that year and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize a year later. It also won or was nominated for a number of other prestigious literary prizes. David Gates wrote in his glowing review in the New York Times that the book had “just enough novel-of-paranoia touches so Oprah won’t assign it and ruin Franzen’s street cred.” Wrong, David. Oprah not only chose it for her book club but went so far as to pr The critics loved The Corrections. Published in 2001, it won the National Book Award for fiction for that year and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize a year later. It also won or was nominated for a number of other prestigious literary prizes. David Gates wrote in his glowing review in the New York Times that the book had “just enough novel-of-paranoia touches so Oprah won’t assign it and ruin Franzen’s street cred.” Wrong, David. Oprah not only chose it for her book club but went so far as to proclaim it “the great American novel.” Franzen, who recognized that his book’s selection by Oprah meant that sales would sharply increase, was nevertheless ambivalent about the situation because he believed that heretofore her selections had been on the “schmaltzy” side. Consequently, when he voiced his feelings in several interviews Oprah withdrew her invitation to have him as a guest on her show (And the dust cover of my hardback copy does not feature her stamp of approval, which had been embossed on earlier copies of the book.). Of course, the publicity engendered by the tempest in a teapot may have had as much of a positive impact on sales as his appearance on her show would have had. But perhaps he did salvage his “street cred.” I hope so. So how is it that I would give such a heralded book two out of five stars? I’ll answer that, but first here is another quote from David Gates’ review: “If you don’t end up liking each one of Franzen’s people, you probably just don’t like people.” My answer for the two stars is I didn’t like any of the people. I didn’t like the father, the mother (I did feel some pity for her, but I can’t say I liked her.), the older son (or especially his wife), the younger son, or the daughter (At first I liked her, but only because I didn’t know her. When I did get to know her, I found her to be the most unlikable of the entire crew, except for the older son’s wife.). Is this because, in Gates’ words, I “probably just don’t like people”? No, it is because I just don't like THESE people or for that matter, any of their friends or associates. There was not a single person that I could pull for – not one. And after 568 pages, I not only don’t like the people, I don’t like the book either. The two stars were for the writing (otherwise it would have been one), and even then, there were times I wasn’t crazy about the writing either. For example: “…Susy Ghosh asked the table in a voice like hair in a shampoo commercial.” (p. 326) I’m still trying to figure out what the hell that means.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    On the other hand, there are IMPULSIVELY READABLE works of fiction. The much appreciated "The Corrections" is a prime example of what can occur if all you do is describe members of a family (it is not even all that dysfunctional--which is why the pathos is all too real). The Lamberts have a fallen patriarch, a mother who is on the verge of being taken under by her spouse (in other words, she's The Mother), a sibling who cares too much, another one too little, & a younger sister who may be a On the other hand, there are IMPULSIVELY READABLE works of fiction. The much appreciated "The Corrections" is a prime example of what can occur if all you do is describe members of a family (it is not even all that dysfunctional--which is why the pathos is all too real). The Lamberts have a fallen patriarch, a mother who is on the verge of being taken under by her spouse (in other words, she's The Mother), a sibling who cares too much, another one too little, & a younger sister who may be a serious workaholic. These are fully-fleshed creations and the mother's only wish, that they all convene for one last Christmas dinner at their original nest, is also the reader's. One cannot help but root for them all to make it! Will the father survive his Parkinson's in one piece? Will Gary (Son #1) change for the better, be less of the older sibling, and therefore less of an asshole? Will Chip leave Lithuania just as civil unrest hits, in time for all five Lamberts to come together? Will the mother beat her new addiction to pills, let go of her husband? Will Denise embrace something other than lame work? These people have very interesting points of view, have deviated briefly from their prime roost, sure. But once they come together in the climax that comes too soon (some 450 pages after all the character development! [why o why can't it extend until another holiday?!?!:]), once we finally get to where we were supposed to get to all along---well, aren't we all at least one of the Lamberts? It hurts to realize that, as an older sibling, I am a Gary. & like him, some corrections could definitely be made...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    Very good in some ways, but very unpleasant, approaching malodorous Despite Herr Franzen's picturesque prose and stellar structuring, I could not get past the gloomy, grating, grinding, megalomaniacal, monomaniacal, hypochondriacal, nymphomaniacal bitching, bemoaning, boohooing, bleating and bloated backbiting and bullshit of this family full of neurotic whiners, stretching from the Midwest to the Northeast for an entire 653 pages. If The Corrections is the Great American Novel, have mercy on U.S Very good in some ways, but very unpleasant, approaching malodorous Despite Herr Franzen's picturesque prose and stellar structuring, I could not get past the gloomy, grating, grinding, megalomaniacal, monomaniacal, hypochondriacal, nymphomaniacal bitching, bemoaning, boohooing, bleating and bloated backbiting and bullshit of this family full of neurotic whiners, stretching from the Midwest to the Northeast for an entire 653 pages. If The Corrections is the Great American Novel, have mercy on U.S. all!! . .

  16. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Whoever said you can't go home again must have been caring for a sick parent. Grief, frustration, anger, shame, feeling helpless — all that plus a sincere desire to do everything you can to help, but ultimately you know you will fail in your mission to save them. Fond memories of home get pushed aside in the wake of a million tasks: doctor visits, medical forms, cancer treatments, prescriptions, adult diapers, and the inevitable move to a nursing home. Worst of all, you must witness over and ove Whoever said you can't go home again must have been caring for a sick parent. Grief, frustration, anger, shame, feeling helpless — all that plus a sincere desire to do everything you can to help, but ultimately you know you will fail in your mission to save them. Fond memories of home get pushed aside in the wake of a million tasks: doctor visits, medical forms, cancer treatments, prescriptions, adult diapers, and the inevitable move to a nursing home. Worst of all, you must witness over and over again the panic of a person who can't remember how to speak. It took me nearly 20 years to read Jonathan Franzen's award-winning novel, "The Corrections." At first I avoided it because I was tired of books about dysfunctional families. Then I chose to boycott it after Franzen snubbed Oprah and made some questionable comments about women. And then this summer, I read a profile of Franzen in The New York Times ("Jonathan Franzen is Fine With All of It") that made me decide to finally read The Corrections. I tried to set aside my irritation with the author's obtuseness so I could form my own opinion of the novel. While this isn't a perfect novel, it is a damn good one. The story follows Alfred and Enid Lambert, elderly parents living in the fictional Midwestern city of St. Jude. Alfred has dementia and poor Enid needs help. They have three adult children: Gary, Chip and Denise. The novel moves from person to person, weaving together all five lives as everything builds toward a big family visit at Christmas. I'm glad I waited to read this book until later in my life, because if I had read it when I was in my 20s, it wouldn't have resonated as much with me. The story of adult children dealing with elderly parents is one I could relate to, having been the primary caretaker when my mother was dying of cancer. There is so much that felt true in this book — each child was a fuck-up in their own way, and the parents are both victims and perpetrators of emotional abuse. There is beautiful writing in this book. There are funny scenes and emotional scenes and scenes that I think could have been cut. (Did I really need to read a long description of Chip trying to fuck a couch after his girlfriend dumps him?) But overall, this is a novel I would recommend to readers who like literary fiction and family dramas. And I'll give Franzen the highest praise I can give to an author, which is I'd like to read another one of his novels. I think I'll try "Freedom" next. Meaningful Passage "Ringing through the house was an alarm bell that no one but Alfred and Enid could hear directly. It was the alarm bell of anxiety. It was like one of those big cast-iron dishes with an electric clapper that send schoolchildren into the street in fire drills. By now it had been ringing for so many hours that the Lamberts no longer heard the message of 'bell ringing' but, as with any sound that continues for so long that you have the leisure to learn its component sounds (as with any word you stare at until it resolves itself into a string of dead letters), instead heard a clapper rapidly striking a metallic resonator, not a pure tone but a granular sequence of percussions with a keening overlay of overtones; ringing for so many days that it simply blended into the background except at certain early-morning hours when one or the other of them awoke in a sweat and realized that a bell had been ringing in their heads for as long as they could remember; ringing for so many months that the sound had given way to a kind of metasound whose rise and fall was not the beating of compression waves but the much, much slower waxing and waning of their consciousness of the sound. Which consciousness was particularly acute when the weather itself was in an anxious mood. Then Enid and Alfred — she on her knees in the dining room opening drawers, he in the basement surveying the disastrous Ping-Pong table — each felt near to exploding with anxiety."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Moira Russell

    Dear Mr. Franzen, Please be so good as to kindly go unfug yourself. Sincerely, The fabulous Edith Wharton

  18. 5 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    I enjoyed reading this book. It is one of those rare instances when I fully agree to all those blurbs written in the front and back covers of a book. No wonder that The Millions (Reader's Choice) voted this book as #1 novel of this decade (2000-2009) that is now about to end. It is also in the 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Time 100, Oprah Selections and won the National Book Award. This book was published in 2001 at around the same time as when 9/11 happened. Sinc I enjoyed reading this book. It is one of those rare instances when I fully agree to all those blurbs written in the front and back covers of a book. No wonder that The Millions (Reader's Choice) voted this book as #1 novel of this decade (2000-2009) that is now about to end. It is also in the 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Time 100, Oprah Selections and won the National Book Award. This book was published in 2001 at around the same time as when 9/11 happened. Since this book is about a dysfunctional (that needed "corrections") American family, each of the American readers - critics included - was probably able to see him/herself in at least one of the many characters of this book. Franzen wrote every page beautifully with all his characters well-developed that you could almost see them moving, talking and breathing. I had to hold my breath on its last few pages this morning as Franzen put the conclusion "The Corrections" closing the life story of Alfred (who refused to eat so he died) and Enid (who still sees hope despite being a new widow at the age of 75). There was a handful of other books that I got reminded of while reading this novel. The Prince of Tides by Frank Conroy is also about a dysfunctional family of 5 with 2 sons and a daughter. The way it tackled the history of a contemporary American family also reminded me of American Pastoral by Philip Roth. The subject of dementia reminded me of two novels I recently enjoyed: Herzog by Saul Bellow and Surfacing by Margaret Atwood. Related to the last novel, I am always fascinated on how these (Franzen and Atwood) exceptional authors were able to write the thoughts of a demented person. Do they really have an idea on what is going on inside a crazy person's mind? When Franzen refused to show up for an Oprah interview (because his book was chosen), he explained that he did not want this book to be seen as "book that mothers read" or something like that. I agree. This is for everyone, including non-Americans (like me). One misleading small point is the picture of a child on the front cover of the book. He must have been Jonah who does not want to eat his vegetables. However, the picture seems to be in a Christmas table and I was sort of expecting that Jonah would be there in the last Christmas part. This book was collecting dust in my bookshelf but I picked it up as I thought it was about a child attending a Christmas dinner. Tricky picture, huh? Last point to admire: the many, many small characters during the cruise were made to speak all at the same time without confusing the reader. I saw this in some of Jose Javier Reyes' movies: 2 or more characters talking at the same time but you could still understand them as they are in different tone and decibels. It's a wonder that this could be put in a prose by Franzen. Brilliant...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    From start to finish on my third time through this book - my first experiencing it through text and not audio – I was struck anew at not only the bleak, hilarious story it tells but at the beauty of the writing, at the way Franzen knows how to turn a phrase. One thing I kind of noticed on my own but had my eye made more aware of by a New York Times review of the book was how meta-fictive the book is. The Times – or whatever publication it was I found on the internet as I obsessed over this book From start to finish on my third time through this book - my first experiencing it through text and not audio – I was struck anew at not only the bleak, hilarious story it tells but at the beauty of the writing, at the way Franzen knows how to turn a phrase. One thing I kind of noticed on my own but had my eye made more aware of by a New York Times review of the book was how meta-fictive the book is. The Times – or whatever publication it was I found on the internet as I obsessed over this book – pointed out that, like Chip’s screenplay, Franzen’s book has a “hump” that you have to get over before you really get into it. I would argue that this hump is the first 40 – 50 pages of the book, where the reader encounters Chip in the present tense as he flakes out on lunch with his parents, without yet knowing about his past, specifically about his tragicomic affair with Melissa Paquette. An aside; Melissa’s father, Tom, is mentioned, an almost throw-away reference, later in the book, during Denise’s story I didn't notice until this third read through, but it significantly increased my incredulity at the author’s artistry. An example of the novel’s commentary on itself that offers more insight into understanding the book comes much later in the story however. As their Lithuanian marketing scam crashes down around them in a hail of stones and broken glass, Gitanas tells chip that his life is a tragedy that has become a farce. Later, after they have crashed the Stomper and Chip has been stripped and robbed by policemen in ski masks, this idea comes back to Chip, and he realizes that it is the approach he should have taken in rewriting his ailing screenplay. Franzen’s novel goes from great to classic if looked at through this lens, tragedy rewritten as farce. Some people I have spoken to in the course of my evangelizing about the greatness of this book have told me that they found it incredibly depressing. While it certainly has depressing elements and characters that are at times loathsome, and indeed the very premise of the novel centers around the different forms of depression the five main characters experience, depressing would not be on a list of the top 100 words I would use to describe this book. I think this is because I viewed the majority of the potentially depressing scenes not as tragic, but as farcical, especially upon repeated readings. While it may indeed be depressing to witness Gary ranting at Enid at the end of the novel, casting a pall on the only positive thing she has had to look forward to over the course of the story, when the reader considers that Gary has previously tried to avoid his own depression / prove his sanity by getting liquored up and hopping around on a ladder with a running hedgeclipper and gouging his hand, which he then places in a Branola bag, we recognize Gary’s rantings as a further byproduct of his own faults and are able to laugh at his overcompensation. Indeed, Franzen’s entire novel is tragedy re-imagined as Farce. There’s nothing inherently funny about Parkinson’s disease or the depression that many people experience, for whatever reason, in their dotage, but it certainly IS funny that both of these things manifest themselves in Alfred through hallucinations of anthropomorphized turds. Since finishing this book for the third time, I have had a hard time becoming engrossed in another novel. In terms of scope and story, I think it is closer to Dickens than anything else I have ever read, which is pretty good company to be in...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I'm writing this review in response to Kate's review, which tore it up with a lot of intelligent points. I feel the need to respond because I loved this book, and even re-read it about a year ago. One point Kate makes is that this book is full of rotten characters and some of them don't stand up off the page. (My mother's main complaint, too, was that the characters weren't nice.) I'd agree that there are a couple characters who are flimsy (mainly, SPOILER, the couple Denise has her thing with), I'm writing this review in response to Kate's review, which tore it up with a lot of intelligent points. I feel the need to respond because I loved this book, and even re-read it about a year ago. One point Kate makes is that this book is full of rotten characters and some of them don't stand up off the page. (My mother's main complaint, too, was that the characters weren't nice.) I'd agree that there are a couple characters who are flimsy (mainly, SPOILER, the couple Denise has her thing with), but the argument about the rotten characters, perhaps it's a personal thing -- I just don't care. The rotten attributes of the people, I thought, didn't exist to make them rotten as much as to show the secret lives these characters were living, the flaws in need of "correction." (Correction is certainly a heavily played theme, but Franzen goes about it addressing so many different parts of personal and public life that I find it hard to hold this interlacing against the novel.) Hm, the way that last sentence is written seems to imply Franzen is formulaic, which I don't mean to say. I mean to say Franzen is a master at craft. And again on the "rotten characters" point -- maybe I'm a pessimist, but I think all people have ugly things inside. And I think this is what makes us human. The main thing I love about this novel, the redeeming quality I would like to use as a shield, is the author's mastery of psychic distance and perspective. Using third person, Franzen manages to craft the interior drives, passions, and thoughts of Chip, Denise, and Gary with complete distinction. I really had the sense that these were three different people, and for an author to do that in different books, much less ONE book, is brilliance (think of all the oeuvres jammed with main characters who are all stale, redressed versions of one another). At the time I read it, I honestly felt the only time I'd seen different perspectives drawn so well was between Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. Another thing I like about this book is the arc. Again, craft, sure, but can't I care about the craft? Compared to books of similar lengths, this book has both the parabolic & the exponential. I remember that even though I had already read the part about (SPOILER AGAIN KINDA) the father's discovery on the work bench in the basement in the New Yorker first, when it showed up in the novel there was enough compression to make me weep.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    An Opportunity to Make A Few Corrections I read “The Corrections” pre-Good Reads and originally rated it four stars. I wanted to re-read (and review) it, before starting “Freedom”. I originally dropped it a star because I thought there was something unsatisfying about the whole Lithuanian adventure. Perhaps, when I re-read it, I wouldn’t object to it as much and I could improve my rating. Having just finished it, I could probably add a half-star, but I’m not ready to give it five. Second time around, An Opportunity to Make A Few Corrections I read “The Corrections” pre-Good Reads and originally rated it four stars. I wanted to re-read (and review) it, before starting “Freedom”. I originally dropped it a star because I thought there was something unsatisfying about the whole Lithuanian adventure. Perhaps, when I re-read it, I wouldn’t object to it as much and I could improve my rating. Having just finished it, I could probably add a half-star, but I’m not ready to give it five. Second time around, the Vilnius section didn’t grate as much, partly because it was far shorter and more innocuous than I recalled. However, the second reading helped me to work out what stopped it being a five star effort for me. The First Draft Franzen’s writing is easy to read. He’s a skilful writer, he knows his chops. His style is both fluent and fluid. You can dip in for a short session and suddenly find that you’ve read 50 to 70 pages pretty effortlessly. He accumulates detail, but he points you confidently in a direction, even if you don’t know what your destination will be. He seems to have put his prattishness behind him now, so it’s possible to appreciate his writing without peering darkly through the lens of the Oprah spectacle. Because he writes in a realist manner, I think that whether or not you will enjoy his novel depends on whether you relate to his subject matter and his characters. “The Corrections” is primarily concerned with the dynamics of a family. I have never been a fan of family sagas, so I was initially apprehensive. Also, when I first read it, I was over-exposed to film about dysfunctional families and the social problems they generate. However, I don’t see the Lamberts as dysfunctional so much as typical of the thermodynamics that can be present in three relatively ambitious and driven generations in the 21st century. I’d venture to say that they’re more normal than abnormal. They don't commit any grievous social crimes, although they do a lot of emotional damage internally. Punch Lines Stylistically, the novel is written in the third person. This allowed Franzen to drop the reader, like a fly on a wall, into a number of different homes and rooms in homes. From this vantage point, we’re able to observe numerous family members, not only externally but internally as well. The only negative thing I want to say about this is that, what Franzen dedicated 566 pages to, I think someone like Raymond Carver could have done in 166 pages. When Carver writes, we ascertain his meaning and intent by inference from the skeletal facts and action on the page. Franzen leaves little to inference. Everything is spelt out. Meticulously and elegantly, to give him due credit. He doesn’t pull any punches, but equally he signals all of his punches along the way. This is the one reservation I have about his style. There is a sense in which he is a perceptive commentator and essayist, at the expense of being a truly great technical novelist. Time and time again, I found that he layered detail and content on the page by telling us about it rather than creating the illusion that it was happening in front of our eyes and ears. There is a lot of back story, and not enough front story. Interior Design There isn’t a lot of action, at least externally. The action is largely interior and individual. Little is revealed through the interaction of the characters. Most of it is revealed by way of contemplation or recollection. The personal tensions that are the focus of the plot end up being in your head, rather than in your face. While I found it all interesting, I didn’t find it exciting. I can therefore understand why a large proportion of general readers would find it either too intimidating to start or too boring to finish. To this extent, you can understand why Franzen was concerned that, because of Oprah’s endorsement, many people would buy the book, without reading or enjoying it. They weren’t really the readers that Franzen had in mind when he wrote it. Perhaps, he would have written a different book if he wanted them to read it. Instead, he wrote for an audience of readers a lot more like himself in temperament. This isn’t meant to suggest that he was arrogant, only that he didn’t want to disappoint an audience he wasn’t trying to satisfy in the first place. The Blue Chair The patriarch of the Lambert family is Alfred, a retired railway engineer and part-time bio-tech inventor. His wife, Enid, calls him Al. To his three children, he’s obviously “Dad”. Yet, Franzen constantly refers to him as Alfred, even though he doesn’t come across as pretentious or affected in any way. You get the impression that Alfred’s old-fashioned rigidity starts with his name and works down. Whereas, in the hands of Carver, I’m pretty confident that he would have been an abbreviated Al or Fred or a contracted “Lambo” or a work-derived nickname. We soon learn that Alfred has a great blue chair that takes pride of place. It’s described as overstuffed and “vaguely gubernatorial”, but most importantly it “was the only major purchase Alfred had ever made without Enid’s approval”. It has great metaphorical potential, although uncharacteristically it doesn’t really get a mention after page nine, even though it features on the cover of some editions of the novel. Still, it hints that, within the Lambert family, we have both a patriarch and a matriarch and occasionally the two don’t see eye to eye. Their differences might be great or small, but they are embodied in the Blue Chair. A Metaphor Explored One of the reasons I rate “The Corrections” so highly is that it is an extended exploration of the “correction” metaphor. Yet, at the same time, the ultimate reason I have dropped it a half- to a full-star is that it never strays very far from a disciplined, even mechanical, revelation of its significance. I feel hypocritical about this, because one role of a reviewer or critic is to detect these metaphors and elaborate on them. In the case of Franzen, the role is much easier to perform, because he leaves verbal sign posts or easter eggs the whole way through the text. Without using Powerpoint, he tells you what he is going to say, he says it, and he reminds you that he has said it. Normally, we would treat this as consummate communication. In the case of a novel, it leaves nothing to the imagination, it leaves no mystery, it leaves little to be detected by the reader on their own. It would be like a crime novel where you knew everything about the crime from the beginning (who, how, when, why), except where the criminal was hiding (where). The Corrections So, what do “the corrections” mean? A correction implies that something is “wrong” or “broken” or isn't “working”, and therefore needs to be fixed or remedied or “corrected”. Throughout the novel, there are references to physical objects that have been kept, even though they don’t work anymore or need to be fixed. They have been retained, when someone else, some other family, might have “thrown them away” or got a replacement the moment it was determined to be useless or obsolete. Alfred would once have had the "will to fix" them, but now he is tired and things go unfixed or uncorrected. This might suggest that there has been a recent breakdown in Alfred's authority, but I don't get the impression that he has had much authority within the family for a long time. In the last chapter, there is also a reference to the need for a correction of a “bubble” in an overheated economy. Investors have blindly expected conditions and values to improve perpetually, but every now and again there must be a correction, a reality check where once there was a dividend cheque. However, when the economic correction arrives, it is "not an overnight bursting of a bubble but a much more gentle letdown, a year-long leakage of value from key financial markets, a contraction too gradual to generate headlines and too predictable to seriously hurt anybody but fools and the working poor." Ultimately, the metaphor most overtly concerns the state of the characters' relationships. Indeed, the novel as a whole is Franzen's State of Relations Address. In their own way, there have been life-long leakages of value in the family's internal relationships that need to be addressed. Without being overtly dysfunctional, we can perpetuate relationships even though they are flawed or defective or unsatisfying. It’s much easier to abandon a relationship (to sell down a non-performing or troublesome stock) when it doesn’t involve a family member. It’s harder, if not impossible, to abandon or negate a parent/child or sibling to sibling relationship. In a sexual relationship, you can get the thorn out of your foot. In a family relationship, sometimes, you can’t get rid of the thorn without losing your foot. Spousal relationships hover in between the two, depending on whether there are children involved. Either way, within a family, you can't usually just walk away. You have to "correct" the relationship or learn to live with the thorn in your foot. A Chip Separated from the Old Block When we’re first introduced to the term “correction”, we meet the middle child, Chip, the "alternative sibling" who has dropped out of the world of "conventional expectations", a would-be post-modernist academic, script writer and left-wing libertine. He might be the “intelligent son”, the "intellectual son", but Chip is still a "comic fool", the protagonist in a farce of his own creation. Chip forensically analyses his parents’ relationship and decides that his life will “correct” all of their personal failings. Where they are passive, conservative and straight-laced, he will be active, radical and open-minded. Franzen doesn’t suggest that this choice is intrinsically wrong, only that Chip makes a bit of a mess of it. To this extent, the novel sees Chip correct himself and his relationship with his parents and siblings, he becomes "a steady son, a trustworthy brother". The Straight Option The oldest child, Gary, is a fund manager, experienced in the ways of business and investment. He appears to be the successful child, but the visage conceals an unhappiness and dissatisfaction with a more conventional life, so much so that he probably suffers from depression. Gary is the least resolved of the siblings in the novel. At the end, he remains unreconciled with his parents and siblings, even if he has achieved a compromise of sorts in the conflict with his wife and children. The Bent Option The youngest child and only daughter, Denise, is in many ways the most interesting character. Some have reacted adversely to her as a shrill harpy. In Enid’s eyes, she has failed, because she hasn’t settled down, married the love of her life and had children. Instead, she is a talented chef, uncertain about what she wants personally and sexually. Denise remains open to different options, only she still hasn’t found what she’s looking for, largely because she doesn’t know what she’s looking for. Nevertheless, within the family, she is a major factor in the resolution and correction of the problems. Families First Franzen most identifies with the children (who are of a similar age), yet there is a sense in which he has the greatest sympathy for Alfred and Enid. Both parents are children of an earlier generation that was given little choice in how it lived life and raised families. The children, in contrast, have suffered from an excess of choice and the lack of a moral compass as they made their own choices. Unfortunately, Alfred has the least opportunity to correct his own behavior, because he is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. On the other hand, Enid, despite the failure of her dream to have one last perfect Christmas together, liberates herself and is able to correct (and resurrect) her own life at last, albeit alone. She is reconciled with, at least, Chip and Denise, and there is a sense in which she will also make things happen with Gary and his family. Families Last The plot and its resolution don’t ultimately suggest that there is any perfect family. Families consist of individuals who all have their own needs and expectations and who all push and pull in their own directions. The thing is that different people have different expectations, and expectations create responsibilities and obligations and burdens. If everybody performs their designated role, does their bit, pulls their weight, plays their part, then compliance, reliability and success in turn give rise to a family culture of reliance, confidence and trust. If things don't "work out", there is a risk of disappointment, a risk of opting out, non-compliance, problems, mistakes, failure and "wrongness" that lead to coercion, anxiety, ostracisation, resentment, blame, guilt and the need to "endure" each other. There is no such thing as a perfect family. There can only be good families. A good family is not one that can avoid mistakes and failure, but one that can embrace apologies and forgiveness as a timely response to disappointed expectations. This is the heart of “The Corrections”. There are no car chases, nobody gets shot, nobody goes to prison (or a correctional facility), nobody gets bankrupted, nobody O.D.’s, nobody gets pregnant, nobody even gets divorced. Yet, somehow, Franzen manages to nail 21st century families and by doing so he nails 21st century society, because, since the beginning of time, families have been at the heart of society. You cannot have a healthy society without healthy families. It might be obvious, but it needs to be stated, even if at times Franzen states it too obviously.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    I can't think of a single other book where I got to end and wanted to ask someone for my time back. Most books that I've strongly disliked or thought were crap were genre books, typically short and relatively fast reads. At close to 600 pages, there is nothing short or fast about The Corrections, and nothing to savour in its slowness either. The story - about a depressingly typical and dysfunctional, middle class Middle American family from the 60s to the present - is a thief. It steals your time I can't think of a single other book where I got to end and wanted to ask someone for my time back. Most books that I've strongly disliked or thought were crap were genre books, typically short and relatively fast reads. At close to 600 pages, there is nothing short or fast about The Corrections, and nothing to savour in its slowness either. The story - about a depressingly typical and dysfunctional, middle class Middle American family from the 60s to the present - is a thief. It steals your time, your energy, and any passion you may have. And it does this simply by telling the story of Alfred and Enid and their three children, Gary, Chip and Denise. Alfred and Enid you've already met. You may not know them intimately, but you have definitely met them. They don't even have to be American. Every white, ex-British colony is bound to have them. Any tacky, showy 50s suburb. They are the cliché that begat all clichés. The husband/father who works and works, is taciturn and sexually repressed at home, who is dull and conservative and safe and a non-presence who nevertheless creates in his children that intense desire to prove themselves, who is a European immigrant (we're all immigrants somewhere down the line but those who emigrated in the mid-20th century are the stuff of countless stories). He is supposed to be from somewhere in Scandinavia but he reads more like an Eastern European - which is where Enid is from. Poland, I believe. Another cliché. Obsessed with appearances, with saving coupons and jars and anything else that accumulates easily; obsessed too with what her "friends" think, with impressing said friends with her children's accomplishments (of which she lies about or embellishes), she could easily be my own grandmother, minus Poland. Their children are no less miserable. Forty-something Gary, married to rich heiress with three boys, is clinically depressed and in denial. Academic Chip, having been kicked out for sleeping with a student and then stalking her, is writing an awful manuscript designed to take vengeance on the women who ruined his life. Sexually-confused Denise is a successful chef who has an affair with her boss's wife and then sleeps with him too. What's especially depressing about them is that they've all absorbed this need to succeed from their parents, and this fear of failures - but they're all failures, failures as human beings. They're also incredibly ordinary, no matter what stupidity they commit. Deeply unlikeable, they are mirrors held up in contemptuous fashion to American culture and the American dream. "What is the author trying to achieve?" is what I kept asking myself. In the highly narrative style of prose used there lies a tinge of smugness, a hint of the author behind the scenes, an author exerting such a neutral tone that I was left with the impression that he didn't like these people either, or feel any respect for them. So why bother writing it down? Loosely plotted around Enid's attempt to get her wayward children home for "one last Christmas", before Alfred succumbs completely to his Parkinsons and dementia, I had little patience for their tribulations and even less for their excruciatingly depressing family get-togethers. There are plenty of stories written about equally middle-everything families. Plenty of stories set in the most life-sucking suburb you can find. Ones that take a wise approach, or a humorous one, or a reflective one - something. The Corrections has been described, and I quote, as "a masterpiece", "the first great American novel of the twenty-first century", "wild, breathless and sharp as a knife" and "dazzling". Any time I see a book described as the next great American novel, I cringe. It's so ... American. Gotta be the best, gotta be better than everyone else. The competitive streak is something that really puts me off. So when you get a novel like this one, lauded as being revealing and wise and so deep, so deep - it becomes less about the quality of the story, the prose, the skill and talent and craft involved in creating it, the sheer hard work, and more about being better than other books. There's a pomposity about that that turns me off even more. It doesn't help that Franzen famously refused to let Oprah include The Corrections in her lucrative Book Club, not wanting her stamp to sully his work. Many people found this to be pretty arrogant. I confess I wouldn't want Oprah's sticker on my book either, but if you want to make a living from writing it'd be pretty stupid to turn it down, financially speaking. It's ironic, is what it is - the kind of people (and I'm generalising again, bear with me), who watch Oprah and read her books are predominately middle class, people whose lives are nothing out of the ordinary - and she often picks books that speak directly to them. So it's ironic that Franzen would have written a book that fits Oprah's criteria to a tee, and then gone all elitist snob on her and essentially, by turning it down, said "it may be about depressing middle American people, but I don't want it read by them. They wouldn't understand." One thing I did find quite fun in the book, especially after having read The Shock Doctrine last year, was the piss-take regarding Lithuania: an ex-politician set up a scam whereby he sold shares in Lithuania itself - the first country to be privatised and incorporated. After being shafted by neo-liberal economic policy, ordered to sell everything off by the WTO and the World Bank, the country, like all the others who were told the same thing, lost pretty much everything. It may not have ended well, but it was funny and satisfying while it lasted: selling a country off to rich foreign investors, predominately American, on false pretext and lies. And they bought it (the fabrication). It was quite clever. I can't deny that there were some clever things about this book, or rather, about the story (not so much the prose), but it's not enough to make the entire reading experience worthwhile. And after all that exhaustive commentary and narrative, to have such a rushed, convenient ending (especially the bit about Chip), was, to use a word I try to avoid, lame. It took me nearly two months to read it, and another couple of weeks to summon up the energy to write this review, so that's about 9 weeks Franzen owes me. And yes, I will take instalments thanks.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    I loved Franzen's Freedom and really couldn't wait to get into this novel. I listened to this on audiobook (it helped that my favourite reader, George Guidall, recorded this in unabridged form). George does a brilliant job, as he always does. The story is long and complex and funny and sad. It has the right mix of obnoxious characters and those who evoke sympathy. I liked it and I loved bits of it. The last part of the book was brilliant and in the end I was really sad I'd finished it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Auguste

    Being a writer can make you an extremely poor - and biased - reader. Over the years, as fears and frustrations keep piling up, you're tempted to dismiss contemporary masters, geniuses writing at the same day and age as you do; why should you endure the pain of realizing you'll never be that great? And yet I've always known that if I gave in to this ungenerous voice, and refrained from reading as avidly as I do, I'd become an even worse writer than the one I fear I am in my darkest moments. This w Being a writer can make you an extremely poor - and biased - reader. Over the years, as fears and frustrations keep piling up, you're tempted to dismiss contemporary masters, geniuses writing at the same day and age as you do; why should you endure the pain of realizing you'll never be that great? And yet I've always known that if I gave in to this ungenerous voice, and refrained from reading as avidly as I do, I'd become an even worse writer than the one I fear I am in my darkest moments. This was a far from necessary preamble, and has nothing to do with Franzen's masterpiece. I've read the book that made Franzen as huge as he deserves to be seven times - yep, I'm obsessed with the guy - and it keeps getting better and better. Do yourself a favor and read this splendor of a novel - and then go ahead and read Freedom as well (Pat may well be one of the best-developed female characters to have been conjured by a male author) and Purity too, which may be Franzen's best, even if I haven't yet managed to reread it, though I definitely will. No shame in being a groupie; sometimes it just can't be helped.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    There is a crowded shelf, among my overflowing bookcases, dedicated solely to books I’m getting around to reading. However much I read, this shelf is always crammed. Most of the books are new, given as gifts on Christmas or my birthday. These are big hardcover titles with tight bindings, handsome dust-jackets, and $35 cover prices. I’m excited to read them, but I hew to a loose first-in, first-out policy, meaning I have to wade through older purchases before I can tackle them (which is part of t There is a crowded shelf, among my overflowing bookcases, dedicated solely to books I’m getting around to reading. However much I read, this shelf is always crammed. Most of the books are new, given as gifts on Christmas or my birthday. These are big hardcover titles with tight bindings, handsome dust-jackets, and $35 cover prices. I’m excited to read them, but I hew to a loose first-in, first-out policy, meaning I have to wade through older purchases before I can tackle them (which is part of the reason my literary velocity is always lagging). The other books on my to-read shelf are older, purchased used for a few pennies (plus shipping and handling). Most are histories and biographies, though I have included several vegetable-books, classics that I should read to better myself, as soon as I can muster the proper will (among them a selection of short stories by Henry James, a poor translation of The Hunchback at Notre Dame, and The House of the Seven Gables). Also on this shelf are those unconquerable volumes that I will probably never attempt again. These are purchases, written by guys with names like Pynchon, that mock my ambitions with their mere existence (in a fit of rage, I once threw Mason & Dixon into the trash; my mom retrieved it and managed to get a refund at Barnes & Noble). I keep them on the shelf mainly as a form of self-flagellation (though sometimes, when I’m drunk, I can talk myself into giving Infinite Jest another go). For the longest time, the odd-book on this shelf was Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. I asked for it one distant Christmas, and upon receiving it, promptly forgot the reasons for having wanted it in the first place. I’m sure, at the time, I thought it’d give my ego a little boost; however, this was ten years ago, and I was also discovering alcohol, which gives the same ego boost with much less effort. In the years since, I’ve picked up The Corrections now and then, and pondered the vague description on the back cover. The story of a Midwestern family gathering for one last Christmas? The vibe this gave off, a Lifetime movie mixed with a little East Coast condescension, did not exactly excite my blood. Then Jonathan Franzen went ahead and wrote another book that people started talking about. I wanted to read it for vanity’s sake, so that I could join this conversation, but the thought of having two unread Franzen novels on my shelf was more than I could bear. So, finally, at long last, I read The Corrections. It was a good choice. The beginning, however, was not promising. The Corrections opens in the Midwestern town of St. Jude, in the home of the aged Enid and Alfred Lambert. At first blush, they embody all the hallmarks of repressed middle-Americans, at least as viewed by someone who has only seen middle America out an airplane’s window (I know that Franzen was born in St. Louis, but he’s all New York now). Enid is the busybody housewife; Alfred is the lazy husband sitting in his chair. Franzen, never one to be subtle about his metaphors, warns us that alarm bells of anxiety are ringing. Frankly, it took me three attempts to get through the introductory section. But I kept on, haunted by the specter of another unread book. I got past the introduction, but still struggled. Part of the problem, I think, is that Franzen is too good and too clever of a writer. There are paragraphs of such sustained wit and singularity that I got exhausted reading them; I just couldn’t stop thinking how hard it must have been for Franzen to come up with this stuff. He really is a dazzling writer, and he does an admirable job sustaining that level throughout, even if he sometimes gets carried away (a description of the weather that includes a “shopping-center sky” may play well in Salman Rushdie’s salon, but not in Omaha). For instance, a description of Alfred’s workshop/lab: The gray dust of evil spells and the cobwebs of enchantment thickly cloaked the old electric arc furnace, and the jars of exotic rhodium and sinister cadmium and stalwart bismuth, and the hand-printed labels browned by the vapors from a glass-stoppered bottle of aqua regia, and the quad-ruled notebook in which the latest entry in Alfred’s hand dated from a time, fifteen years ago, before the betrayals had begun. Something as daily and friendly as a pencil still occupied the random spot on the workbench where Alfred had laid it in a different decade; the passage of so many years imbued the pencil with a kind of enmity… As promised by the book cover (and a cover never lies!), a final family Christmas does figure into the plot of The Corrections. But there’s not really a plot, per se. The Christmas gathering is more of a destination, a convenient place where all the plot threads terminate. There is no real climax or resolution, because this is a story of lives, and the only climax to life is death. The lives in question belong to the Lamberts: the aforementioned Enid and Alfred; oldest child Gary; middle child Chip; and youngest child Denise. Each of these characters gets his or her own discrete time on the stage, in the spotlight. These segments are further split between present-day action, which moves the story towards Christmas, and an extended flashback that fleshes out their early lives and interactions, and helps explain how each person came to be where they are. This is a novel that rests on its characters, and the characters are marvelous. They begin, each of them, as archetypes: Alfred, the distant, demanding patriarch/tyrant, now suffering from Parkinson’s; Enid, the put-upon, long-suffering housewife; Gary, the type-A high-financier; Chip, the douche-bag left-wing academic; and Denise, the daddy-pleasing daughter. As the story progresses, the characters don’t exactly shed their status as archetypes, but they achieve great depth. We learn about Enid’s faded opportunities and Gary’s depression and Denise’s tangled motivations. The Lamberts are not what you would call likeable people. (Of course, likability is a bit overrated. I mean, it’s not exactly a difficult trait for a novelist to achieve. After all, even a stone sociopath like Hannibal Lecter can be made likeable). Franzen generously imbues each of his characters with lower traits and baser instincts: shallowness, selfishness, narrow-mindedness, infidelity, greed, and casual cruelty. They are not evil people; none of them twirls a mustache, wears a monocle, and attempts to fly a bomb-laden blimp into the Super Bowl. Rather, their unlikeable traits are what makes them realistic human beings, full of hypocrisies, contradictions, and self-serving rationalizations. The un-likeability of the characters is probably the most persistent (non-professional) criticism I’ve seen about The Corrections. And to be honest, there were times I almost gave up on the Lamberts. Franzen really pushes you to the edge of what you are willing to accept in a protagonist. Likeability is one thing, hatefulness is another, and there are moments (the way Gary treats Enid, the way Denise breaks up a marriage) that blur the line between dislike and hate. The important thing, though, is that even though his characters come close to hatefulness, Franzen never hates them. A novelist is like the god of a made-up world, and he or she can choose to be an Old Testament or New Testament god. The Old Testament god/novelist oversees his creations, but doesn’t truly care about their fates. Hell, he or she will sacrifice those creations at a whim. The New Testament god/novelist has not only created his or her characters, but actively loves those creations, even when they err or stray from the path. I was often tempted to give up on the Lamberts, but I never did, because in the end, I sympathized with them, and saw in them things I see in myself. This wouldn’t be possible unless Franzen cared about them as well. None of this is to say the book is perfect; far from it. A lot of different things annoyed me, from the occasional pretentiousness of the prose, to the sometimes grating, DeLillo-like dialogue, where characters take turns talking past each other. As a work of satire, the novel is scattershot, with Franzen taking a shotgun approach to pop culture. There are riffs on liberal academia, corporations, high-finance, the internet and pharmacology. The sheer number of targets eventually takes away from the story’s core. For example, I could have done without an extended scene aboard a cruise ship, where a doctor lectures Enid on a drug called “Mexican A.” Finally, there is the matter of Franzen’s none-too-subtle, on-the-nose metaphors. Alfred, for instance, as part of his deteriorating condition, has hallucinations in which he is beset by marching feces. Eventually, I would have figured out that the feces-visions had to do with Alfred’s anal retentive nature, and his lack of sexual progression. However, I didn't have to figure it out, because Franzen literally comes out and says Alfred’s visions are symbolic of his anal retentiveness. I guess you can say a lot of things about The Corrections, but “impenetrable” is not one of them. These things don’t matter, or more precisely, any shortcomings are swamped by Franzen’s brilliance. His depiction of Alfred’s disease is particularly devastating. It was far more effective than my 30th birthday at terrifying me with the ravages of age. The Corrections also does a masterful job of capturing the era of the late 90s (it was published in 2001), while also proving scarily prescient about the then-future (by which I mean today). I don’t know really how to explain it; at times, The Corrections is simply breathtaking. I try to never give up on a book I’ve purchased. Sometimes that means slogging my way through Moby Dick, and then finding artful ways to say I was bored. Other times it means discovering for myself what the rest of the reading world learned a decade ago.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    Jonathan Franzen seems to have a knack for winding people up. When his list of writing rules was published a couple of weeks ago, the Internet was quickly ablaze with indignation and evisceration. How dare this privileged snob share such pompous advice? My own Twitter timeline was full of other writers mocking his self-importance. But is it arrogance if you can back it up? I'd never read Franzen's fiction, so I decided to start with the book that made his name. And I soon realised why such a fuss Jonathan Franzen seems to have a knack for winding people up. When his list of writing rules was published a couple of weeks ago, the Internet was quickly ablaze with indignation and evisceration. How dare this privileged snob share such pompous advice? My own Twitter timeline was full of other writers mocking his self-importance. But is it arrogance if you can back it up? I'd never read Franzen's fiction, so I decided to start with the book that made his name. And I soon realised why such a fuss was made of The Corrections. It is a novel bursting with ideas and razor-sharp observations, a work of true ambition and intelligence. Love him or hate him, Franzen is a literary talent that is hard to ignore. The story revolves around the Lamberts, a family from the Midwest town of St Jude, each of them battling their own private demons. Alfred is losing his mind to Parkinson's, as his fussy wife Enid struggles to care for him. Eldest son Gary is trying to convince himself that he is not depressed, as he competes with his wife for his childrens' affection. Middle son Chip has lost his cushy college job after an affair with a student. And beautiful, hard-working Denise is a successful chef who bounces from one failed relationship to another. Stories about dysfunctional families hold a real fascination for me, and boy do the Lamberts have issues. I found the one-upmanship of Gary's marriage riveting and strangely amusing. Alfred's ungraceful demise was tragic to read about, and I felt sorry for Enid as she tried her best to hold everything together. Denise was an intriguing paradox - maybe the most good-hearted and thoughtful member of the Lamberts, but with a self-destructive tendency when it comes to relationships. The lazy, self-serving Chip was the only character I did not care for, and I found myself skimming through his pages. The Corrections is a family saga that is as insightful, witty and genuine as any I've read. But the book is not only concerned with domestic matters, it also holds forth on topics such as the healthcare system, the declining state of American railroads, East European cuisine and so on. I must admit that not all of these tangents held my full attention. However, the story always came back to the Lamberts - as real and as fascinating a fictional family as you could ever come across. The naysayers will continue to call Franzen arrogant, but if he keeps writing books as good as this one, he can show off all he wants.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    First let me say that this Franzen guy, he can write. That by itself justifies a minimum of 3 stars. He turns a phrase as well as anyone in modern literature, with a style that is both artful and incisive. His brainpower is on display just about every page. In a way, though, that’s part of my frustration with the book. When someone as clever as Franzen is sharing insights, you might hope for some traits to borrow or views to adopt from his characters—something to include in your own eclectic por First let me say that this Franzen guy, he can write. That by itself justifies a minimum of 3 stars. He turns a phrase as well as anyone in modern literature, with a style that is both artful and incisive. His brainpower is on display just about every page. In a way, though, that’s part of my frustration with the book. When someone as clever as Franzen is sharing insights, you might hope for some traits to borrow or views to adopt from his characters—something to include in your own eclectic portfolio. But the Lamberts (the family he profiles in the book) lack the people skills that could redeem them. They’re relationship nitwits, in fact, especially with each other. It’s like they can’t see one move ahead on the chessboard of human interactions. It’s apparently a mystery how pointing out each other’s warts can lead to hard feelings all around. Despite the corrections each is meant to have made, they show precious few signs of growth. Alfred and Enid, the elderly parents, are less developed probably because Franzen can’t imagine much depth for their demographic. Alfred has failing health, both mentally and physically, and was never very engaging even before. Enid is defined by her idée fixe—that a Norman Rockwell Christmas should be the family’s loftiest goal. The adult kids fall well short of the happy ideal. Gary is financially savvy, but in a sad trap partly of his own making with his wife and boys. Chip, who I’m guessing is the one Franzen relates to himself (intellectual, idealistic, and in a funk due to bad luck, not bad intent) is given some hope, but we’re never sure how real it is with him. Denise, the baby of the family, had a bumpy ride, too—up and down with relationships (mostly down), her career, and her empathy quotient. The many flaws are not entirely far-fetched, though. On a bad day you might imagine going part of the way to their dyspeptic extremes before impulse controls contravene. The author is wise in that cool, disaffected, modern American way about the assholishness of the world. I’ll add another star to the rating for his snarky elan in revealing it. I like character studies, in general, sometimes including characters I dislike. Besides, I don’t want to seem so middle-aged, middlebow, and Midwestern that I missed the point: that of the hipster’s “tragedy as farce”.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Arnie

    I didn't like The Corrections. I didn't like or care about any of the characters. Seems like I've been reading about the prototypical dysfunctional American family for decades. This one was humorless and boring. Probably because the characters lacked personality. I know most people loved it or said they did, I've already heard all the arguments defending it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. That’s right, Jonathan Franzen - yesterday on my lunch break I powered through and finally finished your 550-page ode to being an unsatisfied ex-Midwesterner. For the most part, I’m glad I didn’t just quit reading it. It starts with a section on the parents, then does one on each of the kids before coming back to the parents and then jumping around a bit as they’re all home/trying to get home for one last Christmas together. I’m glad I finished it out for one reason - I actually did enjoy the sec That’s right, Jonathan Franzen - yesterday on my lunch break I powered through and finally finished your 550-page ode to being an unsatisfied ex-Midwesterner. For the most part, I’m glad I didn’t just quit reading it. It starts with a section on the parents, then does one on each of the kids before coming back to the parents and then jumping around a bit as they’re all home/trying to get home for one last Christmas together. I’m glad I finished it out for one reason - I actually did enjoy the section about the daughter, and, to a lesser degree, the Christmas section. I don’t know if they were actually good or if I was only enjoying myself because compared to the self-satisfied bullshit that makes up the other 85% of the book, having a story told in a somewhat straightforward manner was just a welcome change. That’s not to say that I need my stories to be straightforward - I might have enjoyed Chip’s pretension and the endless timeline jumping of his section, or even Gary’s unrelenting paranoia, Enid’s compulsive need for control, and Alfred’s unlucky combination of advancing dementia and incontinence. Might have, had it not been for the fact that as Franzen writes these things, you can tell he’s completely chuffed that everyone reading it is going to eat it up. When Alfred is haunted by imaginary turds, it is difficult to tell where his dementia ends and Franzen overcomplicating his story begins, and it’s the same case with the failures of Chip and Gary - to what extent are they meant to be insufferable and self-important, and to what extent is his smugness at how wonderful and unconventional his story is bleeding into the story itself? Denise’s section and the final section stand out because in these places, the story doesn’t overwhelm itself. We see characters interact and actually go somewhere with a story without spending dozens of pages bogged down in misguided introspection - in Denise’s case, I don’t know why it happens - maybe of all the Lamberts, she’s the most at peace with her failings. Maybe Franzen can’t project as much of himself onto a secret lesbian affair. Maybe here, he just wanted to tell the story. When it comes to the final section, however, it’s very clear why I was able to stand it - by spending a few paragraphs or a few pages in each character’s point of view, rather than a hundred pages at a time, Franzen can’t get caught up in any one place. The switching, and the fact that the relatively short section must cover a specific series of events over a few days, allows for something resembling momentum to be kept, and keeps the last stretch of The Corrections from drowning in its own bullshit. Overall grade: C-. Not without merit, but the bad far outweighs the good. [Maybe in a few decades I'll love it? I had the distinct impression that if I were a middle-aged ex-Midwestern man who hated my parents, instead of NONE OF THOSE THINGS, I'd actually get what all the critics on the back were raving about.]

  30. 5 out of 5

    Justin Sheppard

    I find myself of two minds after finally getting around to reading The Corrections. While Franzen is undoubtedly a supremely talented writer, I can’t help but feel that what could have been a legitimate classic novel was ruined by the author’s idiosyncrasies. Unlike most people, my complaints don’t lie in the novel’s hyper-sexuality or its cast of unlikable characters. Sex in literature has never bothered me as long as it serves to advance the plot in some way (which, I believe, it does here) an I find myself of two minds after finally getting around to reading The Corrections. While Franzen is undoubtedly a supremely talented writer, I can’t help but feel that what could have been a legitimate classic novel was ruined by the author’s idiosyncrasies. Unlike most people, my complaints don’t lie in the novel’s hyper-sexuality or its cast of unlikable characters. Sex in literature has never bothered me as long as it serves to advance the plot in some way (which, I believe, it does here) and I personally find it hilarious that the only character in the novel I felt any sympathy towards was Alfred since, whatever his faults, he’s the only character that seems to possess a moral code. What bothered me about the novel was that it was bloated with needless subplots and what I can only describe as masturbatory writing by Franzen. The “At Sea” chapter, for example, could easily have accomplished what it had to in half of its 100-page count. Instead, we’re treated to page after page of needless verbal jabs between the Söderblads and the Nygrens, and Sylvia Roth’s completely irrelevant confessional. The diversions are sometimes interesting, but they take away from the flow of the novel. This problem is compounded by Franzen’s ornate, longwinded prose. While I appreciate the unique imagery and sensory detail that Franzen utilizes, he lays it on a little thick at times. It feels as though he’s more interested in patting himself on the back than focusing on maintaining a tight narrative. It’s fiction, so obviously style is paramount, but there’s something to be said for word economy. Ultimately, the novel’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses, but I can’t help but feel that, pared down to around 400 pages, it would have made for a much more satisfying read.

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