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The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The Corrections (2001)

by Jonathan Franzen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
14,744318258 (3.76)447
"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 long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and heart down the drain of an affair with a married man - or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
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» See also 447 mentions

English (295)  Dutch (7)  Spanish (3)  German (3)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (2)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (318)
Showing 1-5 of 295 (next | show all)
She knew she was telling herself lies, but she didn’t know which of the things in her head were the lies and which were the truth.

How can you distinguish the people when everybody pretends to be the same?

My first Franzen, and he got me with that first, soaring and ominous sentence: “The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen.” I was expecting a festive celebration of language and psychology, but that it was to be as astounding as it ended up being was beyond my expectations. Gritty, bitter and sad, dizzyingly hopeless. Life lived and lost.

I count myself lucky to have read the book now, 15 years after publication. The dust has settled, and while everyone first thought it was the best thing ever, and after a while thought it must be the worst thing ever, what's left now is the book itself.

Having John William's Stoner (1965) fresh in my mind, it was easy to find in that work an apparent precursor to Franzen's work. There’s the same direct and cruel honesty, so much so that the characters are so strongly non-idealized, a degree of which is needed for their likability, that they become — well, they become very real, instead, so real that one starts to believe them when they reason, believe that they do what they do because it makes sense to them, or that they’re trying, really trying. Franzen’s characters, the family in the epicenter, are inchoate and hardly make sense even to themselves and their relationships are dysfunctional and illusory. They prevaricate when they think they’re lucid, and they flaunt in their earnestness. Their perfidiousness is obvious to all except themselves. Each person is more squalid than the next, and they really can’t see the mote for the beam.

And if it weren’t so, The Corrections wouldn’t be the marvelous book that it is. All the characters fight for agency and meaning, attrition their great nemesis as they yearn for acceptance, love and success in their own terms. Franzen doesn’t make them to be blameless in their plight, far from it, which only enables him to truly reveal their humanity and humaneness, since this is not morality Franzen lays before us in plain words. There’s no golden rule or a way out. The crux is in the plaintive pattern of social distrust, instead, and entropy, and the inherent irrevocability of it all. When we wonder with Alfred how “it was unfair that the world could be so inconsiderate to a man who was so considerate to the world,” we also acknowledge it to be only partially true. The world turns and there is no new dawn, merely darkness and oblivion. It merely ends, and the rest is silence.

It is this lack of apparent catharsis that lends substance to the story. It makes it real, in fact painfully so, but Franzen’s affable style and keen eye for the comic in the tragic turns a tale that could have been unreadably depressing into a glowing, near-prophetic elegy, stately and brilliant, even life-affirming with its anxiety-ridden heart. Indeed, Franzen’s keen ear for comic timing and his stunning skill with the written word make this enjoyable, in fact mostly hilarious, and far from a burdensome “intellectual” reading exercise. (I know many people will have found the book just that, but I just can't relate to them this time.) Not that there isn’t any kind of change, mind, but in Franzen’s hands the cathartic realizations of his characters are the corrective measures implied to in the book’s title, not an all-encompassing solution for a decidedly successful turn of events. The universe doesn’t neatly fold into their hands, and adaptation is their only choice as the path keeps on swirling into the distance.

I marvel at Franzen’s wisdom, clarity of thought, mastery of language and ultimately, the ability to sit quietly and perceive what his characters are doing and why. The Corrections is, for me, everything I look for when reading fiction.

30 June,
2016 ( )
  Thay1234 | May 27, 2020 |
813.54 FRA
  alessandragg | Apr 16, 2020 |
technically brilliant. sometimes I nearly give up when I'm tired and can't appreciate long passages, but then the characters always draw me back in. ( )
  MargaretAnnC | Mar 23, 2020 |
I don't know why I read this again. I took it out of my bookshelf, felt the heft of it, opened it to page one, and fell in. I was totally hooked by the second paragraph, more specifically, when I got to the word "gerontocratic." What a perfect, perfect word for the meaning Franzen wanted there. This isn't beautiful writing, but it's perfect writing. The absolute attention to the meanings of these words, sentence by sentence, adds up to a perfect whole. It's not the work of a singular artist. It's the work of a singular artisan. It's not the guy who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It's the guy who made the chapel. I know what I mean.

I read this first within a week of it being published. What a strange time, and a strange time especially to be reading a book about upper middle class American life. Here we are nearly 20 years later and still in the throes of working out that national trauma, and here we are again, as close to starting a war with the middle east now as we were back then. What's changed for me is that I have changed. I used to be so much like Chip that it was painful to read his story. Now I'm more like Enid. The level of humanity and reality Franzen breathed into these characters is remarkable, and I'm most amazed at his achievement in making Enid and Alfred so human, when he was so far from their age.

I'm grateful that this book is in the world, both for the pages inside its cover and for the cultural and historical touchpoint the novel represents. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
Unfortunately, DNF! ( )
  Terrie2018 | Feb 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 295 (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)
'Met voorsprong het beste boek dat ik in jaren gelezen heb. Het enige slechte is dat het jammer genoeg na 502 pagina's ophoudt.'
added by guurtjesboekenkast | editDe Morgen, Yves Desmet
'De correcties is een zeldzaamheid: een boek dat hoog inzet, stilistisch verbluft en niet kan worden weggelegd tot het is uitgelezen.'
added by guurtjesboekenkast | editNRC Handelsblad, Pieter Steinz
Fremragende amerikansk roman minder os om hvor nøjsomme vi i grunden er herhjemme. Litterært set.
added by 2810michael | editJyllands-Posten, Niels Lillelund

» Add other authors (11 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
First words
The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through.
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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