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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 the Hardcover edition.
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 the Hardcover edition. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Reading this book is like looking at a skinned human -- you always knew that the blood and guts and bones were in there, but you generally focus on the more palatable exterior; it's disturbing at the same time that it is completely natural.
The Corrections is like this. Lives laid bare; intrafamily squabbling, game-playing and meddling. Like an uncleansed soap opera, many times closer to real life than would be comfortable. I loved it, yet found it uniquely disturbing.
My wife and I are reading this book right now and I can tell you this book will challenge you. Can't deal with that? Try another book. In fact, might as well forget books entirely and watch some more reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond." Remember that episode when Debra gets PO'ed at Ray? Yeah, I love that one too. That's probably more your speed.
For the rest of you. Take the Gary character, for example. When you first meet him, the battle lines on him between my wife & I are clearly drawn. I felt sorry for him. Now midway through the book neither of us can figure him out, if he's a jerk, or if Caroline is being a bee-eye-tee-you-know-what.
The book is hilarious, too. You'll be reading along and suddenly be smacked in the face with Franzen's humor, and the best part is he doesn't warn you, draw attention to it, anything. Makes me wonder how many other jokes I've read through without catching them already.
Great book. Buy it. No whiners!
Franzen does not disappoint here, establishing five individual paths so relentlessly that the stereotyped Lamberts emerge on the other side as complete cartoon figures, perfectly matching the unrealistic plot. (Enough reviewers divulge plots, as if that was the only element in a book, so it won't be addressed here.) As in a sitcom, where spit-takes and mistaken identities occur all too often, in this book sexual mistakes, marital discord and illnesses come across as tired devices. So what is Franzen up to in utilizing them with such vigour? Before one can answer that, another element must be talked about, something that strikes one from the first word.
The narrative voice is rarely differentiated from the internal voice of the main figures. To the unnamed narrator the world is completely poisonous. If he was commenting on you and I having tea and coffee in a café, then the discarded brown sugar packet lying on the table would be a turd, and the packet would have been vanquished, breathing distress from its crushed brown lungs as it expired in the too chilly air-conditioning.Read more ›
In more urban locations around the country, the three Lambert children are fighting their own battles with their respective demons. Gary, the oldest, is battling depression, his infuriating wife, and his materialistic brats; Chip is struggling with a rapidly disappearing sense of self-worth, after an affair with an undergrad leaves him jobless and heavily in debt to his sister; and Denise, the youngest, is learning that her penchant for making destructive choices is something of a hindrance to her chances for happiness. On top of all this stress is the burden of dealing with Enid's increasingly strident demands for a last family Christmas in St. Jude, and Alfred's rapidly deteriorating condition. There is also a brief but extremely gratifying cameo from a talking piece of poop, which ought to be enough to sell the story to any discerning reader.
Franzen has an amazing gift for making terrible things funny.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
The novel about a family that has gone from the norms of the 60's to the dysfunction of the 21st century is fantastic. Read morePublished 6 months ago by AJR
A well written book on the lives of an US mid-west family and "the corrections" Alfred, Enid and their three adult children go through. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Sigmund Travis
Franzen is a really fun writer to read in *The Corrections*.Published 22 months ago by Reggie Mills
I'm not a literary critic but I tend to only read books that are worth the time, and this one of them! Find out for yourself, why it was in the finals on the Pulitzer Prize list.Published on June 26 2014 by Crystal
I have the following confessions to make:
1) I am a writer.
2) I have not enjoyed one percent of the celebration of Franzen. Read more
This is a rich and complicated story of white middle-class families in the United States. The characters are very well thought out, and Franzen is good at pacing the story. Read morePublished on Dec 11 2013 by AC
Was recommended for our book club and unfortunately not many in the group actually finished it. But I have heard of others who liked it.Published on June 24 2013 by jaimejm
I only popped on to Amazon just now to order more works by Jonathan Franzen. I am nearly finished The Corrections and I wouldn't normally be taking such a long break from the... Read morePublished on July 28 2012 by Tunfæsk
To qualify as a bona fide reader of Franzen's new book, "Freedom", I thought I would catch up with one of his earlier works, and I am glad I did. Read morePublished on Oct. 3 2010 by Ian Gordon Malcomson