Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen) (9.2/10.0)
Alfred Lambert, the stern, hardworking, and honest patriarch of the family, is suffering from Parkinson's disease and dementia. His wife, Enid, is in a state of denial, trying desperately to wring the last drops of family pleasure out of life before the inevitable comes crashing down about them. Their children, Gary the Responsible, Chip the Unpredictable, and Denise the Independent, find themselves making adjustments to their own complicated lives in order to acomodate the illness of their father. The decisions they make and the conclusions to which they are brought are often as surprising to them as they are to the reader.
There is not much that has not already been said about The Corrections. It is a masterpiece of middle-class family interaction and angst in the face of disaster. The characters are believeable and generally sympathetic if a bit overdone and caricatured. And if the scenes that reveal their feelings about one another are likewise exaggerated, the feelings that they elicit are very familiar. By the end of the novel, the reader feels as if he/she has lived a difficult moment among the Lamberts, who continue to reside in memory long after the story has concluded.
Perhaps the greatest testament to The Corrections is the fact that, despite the tragedy of 9/11, which would have derailed the success of virtually any novel, it both enjoyed high commercial sales and has since come to be recognized as a modern classic. I would have to agree. I know that many of you have read The Corrections, perhaps as much as a decade ago, and I'm interested in your views of the work after the passage of time. What do you think now?