I hate to think that I'm easily influenced by shotgun marketing campaigns, but I was so intrigued by the hype leading up to last week's release of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen that I finally picked up The Corrections, just to get myself in the mood. Released in the weeks before September 11, 2001, The Corrections is a portrait of generational and family dissonance and mutual adjustment as viewed from the economic bubble of the mid- to late-1990's.
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?
I read this novel soon after it came out, and if stay-with-me-ness is a barometer of its fantasic-ness, then it is one of the greatest novels of all time. I loved it, and still think about the characters.ReplyDelete
I'm 48 pages into Freedom - and if you liked The Corrections, well, you know....
I've never read Franzen before but all this hype has made me curious as well. Are you planning on reading Freedom? Also, couldn't help but notice that you are reading The Doors of Perception ... can't WAIT for that review.ReplyDelete
@Greg - Thanks for the comment. Wasn't Franzen good buddies with your end-all, be-all? Anyhow, I'm really looking forward to your review of Freedom.ReplyDelete
@IngridLola - I'll definitely read Freedom in the near future, but I want to give it some distance from The Corrections to give it an objective read. I have to say, I'm loving The Doors of Perception - I hope to finish that one next. I'm also listening to A Clockwork Orange at the same time, so it's like I'm living in the late-1960's, early-1970's for a while.
@Patrick - Yes, Franzen and DFW were tight. They were friendly competitors, too - and loved talking about literature and what they were each working on. I'd be surprised if there isn't some sort of special edition of Infinite Jest published some time in the near future - with Franzen penning a forward.ReplyDelete
@Greg - That might be the edition for me. I have to admit that I tried to read Infinite Jest about a year ago. The mistake that I made was trying to read it on a very basic eReader. The footnotes were maddening. For that reason more than any other, I put it down. I'm sure I'll pick it up again soon.ReplyDelete
Miraculously, I still haven't read this. It's on my shelf, though. Still. In hardcover. Calling to me.ReplyDelete
Greg - Am I making this up, or did I hear something about that actually happening? It might not have been Infinite Jest, though. A quick Google search yielded nothing, but if I do find a link I'll let you know.
Read this about seven years ago, sometime after it had come out in paperback and it turned me into a Franzen fan. Read How To Be Alone, Franzen's book of non-fiction essays - it's a wonderful read.ReplyDelete
@Kerry - thanks for the comment. It's definitely worth the read. I'm hoping it will springboard me to an appreciation of Infinite Jest.ReplyDelete
@petekarnas - It's turned me into a fan too. Thanks for the tip. I'll check out the essays.
I am glad that you enjoyed Patrick, even though it didn't do a thing for me. I wish I could have enjoyed it, I really wanted to. Maybe that was part of the problemReplyDelete