REVIEW: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

REVIEW: The Corrections by Jonathan FranzenThe Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Published: Picador (2001), Paperback, 576pg
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Source: Bought


Summary:

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 beauty 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. (from Amazon)

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The problem with waiting so long between reading a book and writing the review of it is that little details that would otherwise make that review interesting are forgotten, and so I’ve gotta apologize in advance if my review is pretty vague and overly generalized. I can sort of remember plot details, but what I remember more is the relationships between the characters.

How people interact with each other and how that differs from how they act when alone is something that really fascinates me, especially if there’s a large disparity between the two. For instance, it’d be like someone who was very friendly and outgoing on the outside, but on the inside they’re bored/lonely/angry/etc. There’s a lot of that sort of thing in The Corrections, which made me really happy, and there’s also some really good stuff about social/family obligations, big business and the individual, and the differences between metropolitan society and more rural society. All of that is the sort of thing I love reading about, and it helps that Mr Franzen’s writing is pretty freakin’ good– although it started off like a bad grad student novel, it got better pretty quickly.

There were some problems with the plot set-up, if only because there were five main characters and you can only spend so much time on each one if you want to fit them all in, so one sibling (Chip) got left out of pretty much the majority of the book (and his plotline didn’t even really make all that much sense, unless you look at it from the perspective of big business vs. individuals and ignore every other angle) and my favorite sibling (Denise) didn’t get much screentime either, but luckily Gary won me over by the end of his plotline, so it turned out all right in that respect. And I think the whole thing with trying to get Alfred into the Correctall was sort of slapdash and boring, but I might just think that because I was more interested in interpersonal relationships than Mr Franzen’s comments on modern medical practices.

I really enjoyed reading The Corrections! It’s basically everything that I love about literary fiction, with the realism and the interesting characters and whatnot. A few blips in the plot aren’t all that big a deal, and I’m sure other people, people who aren’t me and like commentary on modern societal issues as well as the relationships between people, would really enjoy this book! I sort of wish I could go back and read it over again, except I’ve got to move on to books I haven’t read already. Blast.

Read: April 21-23, 2010

5 Comments

  1. Amy

    I tried to read this one years ago and never got through it. The characters were too unlikable for me. I loaned it to a friend who loved it though. I think it might be a love it or hate it book.

  2. “The characters were too unlikable for me.”

    This notion that characters in a book have to be ‘good’ or ‘decent’ and ‘likable’ is the biggest problem with the modern audience, and it’s why fluff mostly reigns on the best-sellers lists.

    As for The Corrections, I felt like it’s 500 pages of prologue and then a family argument which simply leads to the inevitable conclusion and then it’s over. There aren’t problems with the plot; it really had no plot at all. Which is fine, in its way, but then that’s how the book has to be approached — as a tableau, basically; a snapshot of time without much of any discernible forward movement.

    • Mmmm, basically I disagree with nearly everything you’ve said. I don’t think characters have to be likable, no, but they do have to make the reader interested in their story, and for a lot of people that means they want heroes, not antiheroes. It’s just a matter of taste.

      I don’t think there’s any sort of problem with “the modern audience,” because fluff can exist alongside non-fluff perfectly happily. There are all sorts of readers, and just because one reader likes paranormal romances and another like Tolstoy doesn’t mean our society is going down the crapper. Sensationalistic proclamations like that are what’s ruining society, if you MUST know what I think.

      I don’t think The Corrections is 500 pages of nothing, I do think there’s a plot, although it’s not a great sweeping big one, and I don’t think there was anything wrong with the way I approached it. I said I didn’t think I had understood everything in it, but that’s not a bad thing as it gives me an excuse to reread it later on and see what else I can pick up on.

      Thanks for stopping by. 😀

      • I made one simple comment about a trend in people’s reading habits — it was nowhere near a ‘sensationalistic proclamation’ about anything. I know it’s just a matter of taste, but as the saying goes, ‘there’s no accounting for taste,’ and I just mean that because of this modern taste it’s damn hard for anyone other than the next Twilight or Harry Potter author to get recognition for anything. Look at some books which are considered the canonical ‘classic works of literature’ and you’ll see many unlikable characters — it’s often those books that have the most important things to say because they’re not trying to account for market tastes and pressures.

        As for my comments about The Corrections itself, I didn’t say 500 pages of ‘nothing,’ I said 500 pages of prologue; I didn’t say it was uninteresting or boring, merely lurching. Of course there’s a plot, but it’s so minuscule and goes in the exact direction you’d expect it to go that it’s basically irrelevant — that was my point. I say, ‘a snapshot in time without MUCH discernible forward movement.’

        I think you might have realized that if you’d read it a bit closer 🙂

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