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Customer Review

611 of 681 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You Will Love This Book . . . Or Hate It!, November 29, 2001
This review is from: The Corrections (Hardcover)
Caution: This book is filled with vulgar and coarse words. If such offend you, avoid this book.
The Corrections is either a five star, or a one star book for most people. . . depending on your perspective. I graded the book a three, because I had quite a lot of both reactions that I share below. In deciding whether or not you should read this book, ignore the book's award and the book's controversy, but do pay attention to the next two paragraphs.
Here's who will hate it: Anyone who dislikes reading about unending emotional turmoil, depression, dementia, people messing up their lives, ugly family scenes, emotionally cold families, and the views of the well-educated, self-satisfied towards everyone else. Further groups who will be offended will include those who dislike extreme writing styles, slowly developing stories, and a strong sense of irony. Also, anyone from Lithuania or of Lithuanian ancestry will probably feel offended.
Here's who will love it: Anyone who liked John Cheever's Wapshot Chronicle and Wapshot Scandal, but would also like to see more of the interaction among the family members; those who enjoy writing that takes characters to the edge and tests them thoroughly with temptation and challenge in order to let their actions describe their personalities; those who enjoy satirical treatment of foibles of the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom; and those who would like to read about a family with more problems than their own has. The writing itself will interest people who like to see new forms of narration, and appreciate an ability to switch smoothly between stream of consciousness and straight narration.
If you are in the latter category, read on.
I found the book noteworthy for capturing the politics and manipulation within families in an extremely convincing and revealing way. This subject is normally a taboo in our society.
The theme of corrections (whether in financial markets, in dealing with misbehavior, adjusting to new circumstances, or choosing the right path) is a good one for a novel about families, and I thought the theme was most imaginative and extremely well developed. If you are like me, be aware that the theme's full relevance will not start to hit you until the last 100 pages or so.
The book's focus, to me, was on the limits of our self-perceptions. We have a self-image and a way of internalizing the world. Often, the self-image and way of internalizing the world poorly capture what is really going on. As a result, we can misunderstand our circumstances, what others think of us, what is being communicated to us, and even ourselves. Getting past any self-delusion is important to freely finding and taking the right choices for ourselves. As you laugh while you read this book, I suggest that you laugh a little at yourself . . . and learn in the process.
The book's two best scenes are when Alfred comes home from an 11 hour day and runs into a little turbulence over dinner, and the scene in the ship's cabin when Alfred cannot wake Enid up. I wished that more of the writing had been this good. I look forward to reading more novels by Mr. Franzen in the future.
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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 25, 2008 8:34:39 AM PDT
P. Anderson says:
Thank you for a thoughtful review. It makes me now more interested in reading this book, because I had trepidations due to the excessive praising and damning of it--none of which seemed to be helpful.

Posted on Jan 22, 2010 9:39:31 AM PST
I don't think I've ever read a review that I agree with as much as this one. The review thoroughly and succinctly summarizes everything I absolutely hated about this book...and everything that kept me reading anyway until I finished.

Posted on Aug 30, 2010 7:44:03 AM PDT
Dogen says:
To start a review with a warning that it has bad words made me defensive immediately, as if we aren't adult enough to figure that out or care!

Posted on Sep 12, 2010 10:06:51 AM PDT
momof8fay says:
I feel This review really helped me in approaching the book. Thank you

Posted on Jan 4, 2011 1:37:12 AM PST
graduate8517 says:
"People will either give this book 5 stars or 1. So I give it 3." What?? I'm paraphrasing that asinine comment as well as "warning: this has vulgar words in it." What is it you know that other people can't figure out? Why will everyone but you understand the true complexity of this book, making it only mediocre as opposed to wonderful or terrible? And if you're so offended by how people really speak in this country then don't read it. Let's also stay away from "The Catcher in the Rye" and any other book with naughty language. Let's censor TV for nudity and foul language but not violence. No, never violence.
I am less upset with the review than I am of the reviewer's condescending tone. Go back to your choir of conservatives, they're in need of preaching.

Posted on Jul 20, 2011 6:16:55 PM PDT
E. West says:
I liked this review by Professor Mitchell. Yes, I'm afraid I got put off by the vulgar language. Why is someone a 'baby' if they object to vulgar language...I think it shows lack of inventiveness. I agree though, it is satisfying to immerse oneself in this angst-ridden family although the writing seems to be much more dark and depressed Swede than buoyant and American. I'm not going to finish this book though. In describing anything tragic, such as getting old and crazy, the writer needs to convey a little compassion for his characters and far from being a book which treats its' characters generously, Franzen seems mealy-mouthed. I always read the end of books first, so I thought Enid was especially mealy-mouthed after such a long marriage to her husband. If you don't get divorced after just over a decade, like Franzen, then you just don't end up telling your dying partner they were Wrong, you end up with a sense of alienation and dislocation, like my own parents did....or a scene which shows the woman's compassion for the man. The problem with Franzen is that he is a male author who is unwilling to admit the compassion and maturity of women. He doesn't like women or women authors and is unable to achieve a real mastery of understanding the human heart for this reason. I really believed he was around his early thirties reading this book, but he was much older.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2011 10:25:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 30, 2011 10:27:57 AM PDT
episkyros says:
Your point is well taken, and there may be a lack of NUANCED understanding of female psychology. From there to claiming that Franzen doesn't like women or women authors is too much. There are, in fact, women who behave this way. Just as a convenient mythological shorthand, I can think of women who, more or less pronounced psychological qualities, evoke an Aphrodite, a Hera, a Demeter, or a Thetis, and yet others remind one of Artemis or Athena, or Circe or Calypso.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2011 10:08:22 AM PST
Nicole K. says:
The only asinine comments and condescending tones on this post is yours. The original poster never said a single word insinuating that vulgar language shouldn't be used, or was inappropriate in this book. The Professor said that as a warning to people who may be put off by such content, or to those who may have inquired about this book for younger audiences. Frankly, your leap from a caution to those who are put-off by vulgar language, to the censoring of TV is completely absurd. If you're really offended by the way people speak in this country, then perhaps you are the one who needs to skip certain commentary.

Posted on Mar 5, 2013 11:13:48 AM PST
Readergurl says:
Great review - trying to decide whether to tackle the book or not... still...

Posted on Jun 3, 2013 1:12:52 PM PDT
Meltemi says:
"You Will Love This Book . . . Or Hate It", yet you gave it a 3-star (middle of the road) rating?!?
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