- Series: Recent Picador Highlights
- Paperback: 576 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (September 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312421273
- ISBN-13: 978-0312421274
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 0.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,520 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Corrections: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 2002
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
If some authors are masters of suspense, others postmodern verbal acrobats, and still others complex-character pointillists, few excel in all three arenas. In his long-awaited third novel, Franzen does. Unlike his previous works, The 27th City (1988) and Strong Motion (1992), which tackled St. Louis and Boston, respectively, this one skips from city to city (New York; St. Jude; Philadelphia; Vilnius, Lithuania) as it follows the delamination of the Lambert family Alfred, once a rigid disciplinarian, flounders against Parkinson's-induced dementia; Enid, his loyal and embittered wife, lusts for the perfect Midwestern Christmas; Denise, their daughter, launches the hippest restaurant in Philly; and Gary, their oldest son, grapples with depression, while Chip, his brother, attempts to shore his eroding self-confidence by joining forces with a self-mocking, Eastern-Bloc politician. As in his other novels, Franzen blends these personal dramas with expert technical cartwheels and savage commentary on larger social issues, such as the imbecility of laissez-faire parenting and the farcical nature of U.S.-Third World relations. The result is a book made of equal parts fury and humor, one that takes a dry-eyed look at our culture, at our pains and insecurities, while offering hope that, occasionally at least, we can reach some kind of understanding. This is, simply, a masterpiece. Agent, Susan Golomb. (Sept.)Forecast: Franzen has always been a writer's writer and his previous novels have earned critical admiration, but his sales haven't yet reached the level of, say, Don DeLillo at his hottest. Still, if the ancillary rights sales and the buzz at BEA are any indication, The Corrections should be his breakout book. Its varied subject matter will endear it to a genre-crossing section of fans (both David Foster Wallace and Michael Cunningham contributed rave blurbs) and FSG's publicity campaign will guarantee plenty of press. QPB main, BOMC alternate. Foreign rights sold in the U.K., Denmark, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Spain. Nine-city author tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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
As the story opens Alfred is suffering from Parkinson's disease (though it may not actually ever be named). He has trouble tracking conversations with people: "in the instant of realizing he was lost [in conversation], time became marvelously slow and he discovered hitherto unguessed eternities in the space between one word an the next, or rather he became trapped in that space between words and could only stand and watch as time sped on without him." [p 11] Alfred is emotionally anal retentive and this fixation troubles him later in the story. He will give no emotional support to his wife. "'Why are you so unhappy? Why won't you tell me?' [asked Enid]. 'I will go to the grave before I tell you. to the grave.'" [p 276]. Not exactly the basis of a happy marriage.
Enid, is having difficulty caring for Alfred and keeping up with managing the house. Her solution is to take Alfred on a cruise to see the Fall colors along the Atlantic Seaboard followed by Christmas at home where the whole family shows up.
Meanwhile the three adult children are going through crises of their own. Chip has left the university where he taught before gaining tenure; Gary, the other boy is having a midlife crisis and may or may not be clinically depressed. "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 that he was depressed gained currency, he would forfeit his right to his opinions. He would forfeit his moral certainties; every word he spoke would become a symptom of disease; he would never again win an argument." [p 159]. And last but not least, the daughter, Denise, just lost her job as a top notch chef in Philadelphia.
Franzen does a great job weaving these stories together, devoting a chapter to each family member. The opening pages of each chapter describes interactions in various ways. The first chapter has Enid moving bags of unread mail around the house like a general keeping his troops from being attached by the enemy - Alfred.
I especially liked how he tied together thematic elements. Aslan is the lion in the C.S. Lewis series that one of Gary's kids is reading; it is also the name of a drug that Chip has taken and that Enid is prescribed on during the cruise. Furthermore the company that manufactures Aslan depends on a patent that Alfred filed and Gary strives to help get more money from the company for his father.
By the end of the story, everyone makes corrections. Some are physical - job and city changes; but not all. "'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 your seeing them more clearly.'" [p 302]
Franzen employs some beautiful imagery (which I'm a total sucker for)
- "Alfred gestured at his blue chair, which under the paperhanger's plastic dropcolths looked like something you might deliver to a power station on a flatbed truck." [p 9]
- "The light was the color of car sickness." [p 18]
- "Cauterized liver had the odor of fingers that had handled dirty coins." [p 251]
- "A dollop of mashed rutabaga at rest on a plate expressed a clear yellowish liquid similar to plasma or the matter in a blister." [p253]
- "Between his dry skin and his shakes, peeling the backing off a strop was like picking up a marble with two peacock feathers." [p 287]
- "Denise watched the sky stick forks of lightning into the slad of the trees on the Illinois horizon." [p 358]
- "His desire brought cool topical relief to the dryness and crackedness, the bodywide distress, of her person." [p 394]
This is a very good book and the recurring motifs and interlocking plot elements could be excellent for a book club discussion.
Most recent customer reviews
1) The major characters are incredibly true to...Read more