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The Corrections: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 2002
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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From The New Yorker
A sprawling novel about the diaspora of the modern American family: Enid and Alfred have carved their lives out of the suburban Midwest bedrock—hard work, shrimp cocktail, and silent sex—but their children live in New York and Philadelphia, eat wild Norwegian salmon, experiment with bisexuality, and study Foucault. Franzen gives us a tragicomic portrait of a flawed nation with the equally flawed notion of perfectibility at its heart.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
“You will laugh, wince, groan, weep, leave the table and maybe the country, promise never to go home again, and be reminded of why you read serious fiction in the first place.” ―The New York Review of Books
“Marvelous . . . Everything we want in a novel--except, when it's rocking along, for it never to be over.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Jonathan Franzen has built a powerful novel out of the swarming consciousness of a marriage, a family, a whole culture--our culture.” ―Don DeLillo
“Looms as a model for what ambitious storytelling can still say about modern life . . . Franzen swings for the fences and clears them with yards to spare.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“The novel we've been waiting for...a stunning anatomy of family dysfunction...a contemporary novel that will endure.” ―Esquire
“In its complexity, its scrutinizing and utterly unsentimental humanity, and its grasp of the subtle relationships between domestic drama and global events....It is a major accomplishment.” ―Michael Cunningham
“Frighteningly, luminously authentic.” ―The Boston Globe
“A genuine masterpiece . . . This novel is a wisecracking, eloquent, heartbreaking beauty.” ―Elle
“The brightest, boldest, and most ambitious novel I've read in many years.” ―Pat Conroy
“Brilliant . . . Almost unbearably lifelike.” ―The New York Observer
“Funny and deeply sad, large-hearted and merciless, The Corrections is a testament to the range and depth of pleasures great fiction affords.” ―David Foster Wallace
“This is a spellbinding novel . . . that is both funny and piercing.” ―People
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One can easily be enamored by Alfred Lambert, who is fascinating because he is different. His ailment and its accompanying nervous ticks, even though of biological origin, can find a dynamical isomorphism to the brain patterns of any of the other sometimes mentally dysfunctional characters of the story. Albert’s wife Edith, eventually finds redemption in change, and she repeals the doctrine that aging requires permanence and restful equilibrium. She becomes comfortable with the idea of starting again with a clean slate, the words on this slate getting erased not by conscious choice, but by out-of-control events accumulated over a long lifetime. Then there is the delightfully undiplomatic Chip, who charms the reader with his lack of self-confidence. He is a surrogate for the majority constituents of modern life, its individuals, its institutional debacles, and the coercive extremities of academia. His counterweight is Denise, symbol of worldly success and its corollaries of bad habits, and therefore naturally an annoyance to Enid.
Gender politics, deconstruction, queer theory, and other supercilious doctrines form a back drop in the story, all with varying degrees of accuracy and instilling various degrees of annoyance in the reader. Michele Foucault finds representation in sometimes brief commentary on normality. Unsurprisingly, northeastern plutocrats find their place in the book also.
If the words of this novel were music, and sometimes it is hard to distinguish them from the best of melodies, they have found realization and have become amplified by many hundreds of decibels in current modernity. There is no quiet now, no dandelions blowing in the wind that allow contemplation ala the Rev. John Ames of Gilead fame. Modern life jostles around even the most confident of individuals, who find themselves always late rather than early. Indeed, and most delightfully, modernity imposes the strongest corrections.
Also, reviews informed me that "The Corrections’" plot concerns a middle-class family of five in the late-twentieth-century Midwest, with Depression-era parents and grown kids who flew the coop. I happen to hail from a middle-class family of five in the late-twentieth-century Midwest, with Depression-era parents and grown kids who flew the coop. I thought the book might hit a little too close to home, and so I took a pass.
Franzen is a spectacularly gifted writer. His insights and prose are endlessly inventive. He deftly mixes elements of Shakespearean tragedy with humor straight out of Kurt Vonnegut. He chooses the perfect word, the perfect phrase to illustrate his scenes. The major theme, in which members of The Greatest Generation and The Me Generation collide with societal change and with each other, is important to many Americans. National Book Award voters honored "The Corrections" in 2001, and justifiably so.
However … this was a novel that I admired more than I enjoyed. The characters, although fully realized and recognizable, are not what I’d call endearing, and the reader is asked to spend 566 pages with them. Unless you grew up in a family much like the Lamberts – (ahem) – "The Corrections" might engage your mind but not so much your soul. -- grouchyeditor.com