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The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
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The Corrections (original 2001; edition 2001)

by Jonathan Franzen

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12,472257194 (3.76)379
Member:mikemillertime
Title:The Corrections
Authors:Jonathan Franzen
Info:Farrar Straus & Giroux (2001), Edition: 3rd Edition, Hardcover, 568 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)

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English (241)  Dutch (6)  Spanish (3)  German (2)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (257)
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I would like to preface this review by saying that Jonathan Franzen's prose is Smooth with a capital S, and I find the skillfully turned sentence irresistible. I live and breathe semi-colons, and I grew up on a diet of Trollope and Wodehouse, so my complaints with this book do not lie in some uniquely American belief in the character-building of sparse and unenjoyable prose. The difference between Wodehouse and Franzen, however, is that Wodehouse leaves you feeling nicely comforted and relaxed whereas Franzen makes you feel as if you just ate an ortolan and can taste the guilt and stomach acid beginning to crawl up the back of your throat.

That is not to say that Franzen is wholly without good ideas, or the novel plot device, but I feel like Franzen does not quite understand the literary axiom of multifaceted characters, and this is very worrying in what is essentially a character-driven novel. Franzen to me appears to be under the impression that adding more to characters, more and more minutiae and motivations and clever, snide, backstory, differentiating them from a mere stereotype, will redeem him and them with one stroke, but ultimately this is not true, because although Franzen's characters are fascinating, Franzen's view of them is not. Franzen can empathise with his characters, but rarely does he appear to sympathise with them.

Bile is to me entertaining for somewhere in the vicinity of five minutes, and thereafter increasingly irritating unless executed skillfully. Franzen executes skillfully, but The Corrections lasts far longer than five minutes. I do not necessarily wish that Franzen took pity on his brutalised cross-section of middle America, but there is something fundamentally mean-spirited about this book. These characters are naive, and while Franzen is aware of this, his response is to point and laugh.

On one level, I wish The Corrections was better than it was, and on the other hand I wish it was so much worse that I wouldn't find it somewhat appealing. The fact that this book became massively popular among the American middle class is an irony I suspect is not lost on Franzen, and I can practically hear him laughing at the readers not in on the savagery of the joke from here.

Postscript: I have very mixed feelings about The Corrections, and in an ideal world I would like to give it three and three quarters stars, but unable as I am to negotiate between the mediocrity of the three and an half and the excellence of the four, I am rounding down to mediocre just as Franzen rounds down his ultimate take on the worth of Americans. Franzen's writing skills are awe-worthy and his writing is very slightly despicable. ( )
  wpotash | Feb 22, 2015 |
Parts of this book were very good and parts of it almost made me quit several times. The interaction between Enid, Alfred, Gary, Chip, and Denise was written perfectly. Some of the other characters weren't interesting at all and some seemed completely pointless. Actually, it was a very depressing story and made me feel convinced more than ever that there's no such thing as a "normal" family. Enid was my favorite hands down. She was so funny. ( )
  shesinplainview | Feb 13, 2015 |
I finished reading this book over a year ago so I don't really remember what happened in the story. Something about a family and family problems and eating Thanksgiving dinner and stuff. I rated it 4 stars because it's Jonathan Franzen and it was an Oprah book and Oprah don't pick no bad books, son! ( )
  zenslave | Jan 13, 2015 |
Not a heartwarming holiday read. ( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
In The Corrections, we meet the Lamberts, quite possibly the most dysfunctional nuclear family ever portrayed in modern literature. Told in flashbacks and present-day episodes, the story centers on the highly repressed relationships that the parents (Alfred and Enid) have with one another as well as with each of their three grown children (Gary, Chip, and Denise). The kids, who have abandoned their Midwestern upbringing for varying degrees of professional success on the East coast, are simply a mess at handing virtually any of their personal relationships, most notably those with their rapidly aging (and declining) parents. Nevertheless, it is Enid’s wish to have the family reassemble at home in St. Jude, Kansas for one last Christmas together, which is not something that anyone but her really wants. Can anything positive—in fact, anything other than the same hurt feelings, misunderstandings, recriminations, and petty jealousies that have marked the last four decades of the Lamberts’ shared existence—possibly come from this scheme?

It has been quite a while since I have felt as conflicted in my opinion about a novel as I am with this one. Indeed, after absorbing just about 100 pages of this sprawling work, the term cognitive dissonance started reverberating in my head and that thought never really disappeared as I read on through to the book’s conclusion. To be sure, I found both Franzen’s intricate plotting of the multi-layered tale and his writing style to be superbly crafted. The author clearly has a great understanding of the myriad ways in which people can mess up in making connections with each other and he was able to convey his thoughts in a compelling way and, at times, with a devastating sense of humor. Further, I also knew before I began reading the novel that it had won the National Book Award, among many other honors, and thus had been “pre-blessed” by far more insightful critics than me.

So why then didn’t I enjoy The Corrections more than I actually did? The answer, I think, ends up being pretty simple: I just wasn’t all that moved by most aspects of the story. In fact, when not on the verge of being repelled by some of the Lambert clan’s actions, I found it hard to muster much empathy for any of the main characters. I suspect that Franzen drew each of his protagonists in a way that supported his larger purpose of producing an all-encompassing social critique of American life at the end of the last century. However, without the ability for the reader—this reader, anyway—to link personally with any of the family members, that literary device quickly became a very blunt tool. Additionally, absent that empathetic buy-in, it was difficult for me accept the plausibility of some important plot points (e.g., the entire way that Alfred and Enid dealt with health issues, Gary’s emotional blackmail at the hands of his own family, Denise’s dalliances with her employers, Chip’s Lithuanian business dealings). Consequently, while this book ultimately does reward the effort it takes to consume it, it is not one that I can recommend without some reservations. ( )
1 vote browner56 | Dec 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 241 (next | show all)
Franzen’s brilliant achievement is that he creates a set of stereotypical characters and then opens the door and allows us see, in suspenseful, humorous, mesmerizing detail, their defining moments. What was once a silhouette becomes three-dimensional. The complexity becomes a dim mirror of our own complex interiority—writ large, the way we like it writ, because then we can’t help but see ourselves in it.
 
Hvis du skal ta med deg en eneste roman på sommerferie, bør det bli Jonathan Franzens "Korrigeringer". Du kan ikke gjøre noe bedre kjøp akkurat nå. Men romanen gjør deg ikke dermed til en lykkelig konsument, mener Tom Egil Hverven.
added by annek49 | editNRK, Tom Egil Hverven (Jun 24, 2002)
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Franzen, Jonathanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freire de Andrade, Maria JoãoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Groenenberg, HuubTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lameris, MarianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundgren, CajTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To David Means and Geneve Patterson
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The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through.
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The human species was given dominion over the earth and took the opportunity to exterminate other species and warm the atmosphere and generally ruin things in its own image, but it paid the price for the privileges: that the finite and specific animal body of this species contained a brain capable of conceiving the infinite and wishing to be infinite itself.
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Book description
The Corrections is a 2001 novel by American author Jonathan Franzen. It revolves around the troubles of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children, tracing their lives from the mid-twentieth century to "one last Christmas" together near the turn of the millennium.
Haiku summary
You're soldiering on . . . ?
It might become interesting . . . ?
It doesn't. Trust me.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312421273, Paperback)

Jonathan Franzen's exhilarating novel The Corrections tells a spellbinding story with sexy comic brio, and evokes a quirky family akin to Anne Tyler's, only bitter. Franzen's great at describing Christmas homecomings gone awry, cruise-ship follies, self-deluded academics, breast-obsessed screenwriters, stodgy old farts and edgy Tribeca bohemians equally at sea in their lives, and the mad, bad, dangerous worlds of the Internet boom and the fissioning post-Soviet East.

All five members of the Lambert family get their due, as everybody's lives swirl out of control. Paterfamilias Alfred is slipping into dementia, even as one of his inventions inspires a pharmaceutical giant to revolutionize treatment of his disease. His stubborn wife, Enid, specializes in denial; so do their kids, each in an idiosyncratic way. Their hepcat son, Chip, lost a college sinecure by seducing a student, and his new career as a screenwriter is in peril. Chip's sister, Denise, is a chic chef perpetually in hot water, romantically speaking; banker brother Gary wonders if his stifling marriage is driving him nuts. We inhabit these troubled minds in turn, sinking into sorrow punctuated by laughter, reveling in Franzen's satirical eye:

Gary in recent years had observed, with plate tectonically cumulative anxiety, that population was continuing to flow out of the Midwest and toward the cooler coasts.... Gary wished that all further migration [could] be banned and all Midwesterners encouraged to revert to eating pasty foods and wearing dowdy clothes and playing board games, in order that a strategic national reserve of cluelessness might be maintained, a wilderness of taste which would enable people of privilege, like himself, to feel extremely civilized in perpetuity.
Franzen is funny and on the money. This book puts him on the literary map. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:56 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have flown the family nest to live their own lives. Desperate for some pleasure, Enid has set her heart on bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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