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The Corrections : A Novel
by Jonathan Franzen


Amazon.com's Best of 2001
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

Go to the Reading List discussion from 2003
What follows is an informal discussion from 2001:
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (1 of 38), Read 56 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2001 10:37 AM Martin Zook said: I'm about 200 pages into The Corrections, so am limited in what I can say. It may be one of the better books I've read in a while. I don't want to (re)visit the Oprah brouhaha and all the rest. And when I heard his intent was to revive the social novel, whatever the hell that is, I questioned whether I did the right thing by just grabbing it off the shelf and paying for it. But the first 12 pages convinced me. It's a description of a house. House as metaphor for mind, in my mind, anyway. Subterranean (subconscious and all the stuff we don't want others to know about) and then the upstairs, which is a correction for everything downstairs. It also strikes me as being an extraordinarily psychological book, on several levels, certainly from a western perspective. But I'm looking for some signs of the east in there, also -- so far no luck.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (2 of 38), Read 55 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2001 10:52 AM Martin, Since you mentioned being about 200 pages into the book, I looked to see where this puts you. And so I see you're into THE MORE HE THOUGHT ABOUT IT THE ANGRIER HE GOT, the section that introduces Gary and Caroline and their children. I can't tell you how frustrating and sickening I found this couple. In the beginning I could give him credit for trying with the family; after all he is the only one doing so. Later, we come to see how completely selfish he is about the patenting of his father's work. I wanted to slap him. I wanted to slap her even more, she is as sly and manipulative as anyone I've ever met in a book. Still, in my mind the star of this book was Chip. I loved poor ole confused Chip, and all his searching. From his first leather-clad appearance (wow, that play he's writing has got to be just so, so BAD) to his adventures in a war-torn country (you'll get to that), Chip hit a nerve with me. Did you listen to Franzen when he was on Fresh Air? If you missed it, you should be able to get to it on-line, and it is well worth your time. There is only a little of the Oprah brouhaha there, mostly they talked about his writing and especially this book. Tonya
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (3 of 38), Read 54 times Conf: Constant Reader From: William Hayes Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2001 12:16 PM Houses (and gardens) have served as effective metaphors for just about everything associated with people, including minds and marriages. I haven't read the book, but have inferred from several reviews that Franzen's title (The Corrections) refers to the changed (corrected) "houses" that the children have built for themselves, having decided that they didn't want to live in a "house" of the type that their parents built and inhabited. If this is (more or less) the case, then it ought to be (more or less) clear what aspects of the parents house, in the judgment of the children, needed correction. Is it clear? In the book, I mean? And have they made the corrections that they intended? And are they happy to be living in the houses that they have built?
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (4 of 38), Read 49 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2001 08:49 PM Thanks for starting the thread, Tonya. I'm not sure yet why, but I find this a compelling read. If I weren't on deadline, I'd lay in a heap of firewood and read from morning 'til night. The characters are vivid and I think that's what attracts a lot of readers. Everything I've seen on the Web so far either talks (usually endlessly) about the Oprah brouhaha, or the characters (usually in terms of liking and/or disliking). But I think this is very much an ideas story. None of these characters is what I would consider likable, anymore than any of us would be if we had the top floors of our lives peeled back and exposed in the same way. (Wo)man, though. He nails some stuff. The rampant consumeris, households drowning in stuff; how we approach mental health (it's biochemistry and mechanics); and his deft allusion to other authors' works, all are dazzling me right now. Right now Chip strikes me as a postmodern Natty Bumppo type. I don't know if you picked up on it, but in his classroom scene at the end of the semester, he's echoing a famous passage by Umberto Ecco that I believe is an afterword in Name of the Rose. Got a kid to put to bed. More tomorrow. Oh, William, the corrections is more of a process and while much of it deals with correcting the mind, everything that's an extension of the mind is included.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (5 of 38), Read 55 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 07:53 AM I waited with anticipation for this much-touted book, and was delighted when finally I got the library copy last weekend. How happy I am now that the library got the copy before the bookstore one arrived, as I would be truly annoyed with myself if I had spent money on this novel. I am about halfway through, and I am finding it very hard to keep my attention on the reading, and not on the cats, the woodstove, the weather, or all my life woes. I don't like the style, I don't care about the multi-layers, I feel the author is arrogant in his assumption of having written literature, and I am just looking forward to finishing and getting on whit something more appealing to me. I do not demand happy stories or admirable characters, so it is not the nature of the plot that bothers me; it is the writing and the general tone of the author which turn me off. I am glad I finally obtained a copy, or else I would always have felt that I had missed something, but I am not one of those readers who finds this lives up to advance billing.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (6 of 38), Read 55 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 08:37 AM Lee, Ditto everything you said!! I just could not finish this one. It got to the point where it became a chore for me, so I returned it after I read only half of it. But, who knows? Maybe it picks up in the second half. I'm not exactly known for my patience, tho, and probably jumped the gun by deciding not to finish it. Beej
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (7 of 38), Read 53 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Jean Keating jbkeating@home.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 09:29 AM I'm so happy to hear of other people who did not enjoy this book. I took the cowards way and tried to listen to the abridged version on tape. I don't think I made it through the second tape all the way when I decided enough of this. Lee better expressed than I could my own feelings about this book. Jean K.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (8 of 38), Read 55 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 11:26 AM William, Martin: In that Terry Gross interview I mentioned yesterday, Franzen said that the idea that fascinated him, and led to these characters and this book, was that adults these days are not the same as when his parents grew up. This generation is making new rules as it goes along, and many are getting a little lost along the way. It is hard to remember exactly how he said it (which was better than I'll put it) but I'll try. There was a time when a child had this immutable idea of what an "adult" was, and this included almost everything. How an "adult" looks, what an "adult" thinks, what an "adult" does from day to day and year to year. But events changed all that for us, and now, while we know we don't want to be our parents (shudder), what is left is essentially a blank slate. In this book Chip may seem the most lost of the three, but they are all trying to achieve this undefined thing that is an adult in the '90s. Like Franzen, this is an idea I've thought about and talked about a lot, so I was primed for his book. I found the book very compelling, too, could hardly put it down. But just after I finished, I let a friend read it who reacted more like Lee or Jean, completely unimpressed. She couldn't explain why. I agree the characters aren't very likable, when I say I loved poor ole Chip the governing emotion is really sympathy. And the difference between Chip and Gary in that regard is that Chip is so completely lost he's even stopped wanting to try; Gary, on the other hand, is trying all the wrong things. My sympathy toward him is very different. I think the reason you see people discussing the characters is that each one so neatly embodies an idea. Have you got to Denise's section yet? Tonya (Your comments that you're on a deadline and it's time to put a kid to bed emphasize how little we still know about you here: what kid? what age? what kind of deadline? I'll confess here that "Zook" is a new name to me, and I'd assumed it was an alias until I googled it, and learned that lots of people are named Something Zook. Never call me worldly!)
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (9 of 38), Read 54 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Bob Markiewicz bobmark226@aol.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 11:59 AM Parenthetical aside to Tonya re Google: Try using the Advanced Search and exact word option, especially when looking up a proper name, thus sparing yourself all the variations on Martin and Zook as separate words. You'll even get to read some of Martin's posts in other book areas. As someone else wrote to me today, after finding my name linked to CR in a search, "There are no secrets on the Internet." Bob
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (10 of 38), Read 56 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 12:08 PM See, Bob, I wasn't trying to investigate Martin, it was something like this: "Zook? Zook? What's he trying to say with Zook? John Doe I get, Candy Minx I get. Zook I don't get. "Wait a minute here... Maybe it is really a name? I know, I'll google it!" And at this point I learned it is a rare, but real name. Tonya
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (11 of 38), Read 55 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 04:56 PM Ha. Ha. Tonya does not, nor has she in this life time, lived in Pa. Zook is the Pa. Dutch's answer to Smith. Ours came out of smaller groups of the PD in Kansas. We're all over the place now. And I believe there is even another Martin Zook in Las Vegas, or was. And I will attribute to him anything Bob has found that I might now like to deny. I have two children, a girl 9 (Olivia); and a boy 6 (Benjamin). In many ways they bless us, including being avid readers. I'm a hack. Studied literature in school. Have never been able to balance a check book. Am a business reporter specializing in business to business newsletters. Right now, I'm writing and editing a newsletter about the information technology consulting industry. Instead of doing who, what, when, where, and why; I do what's the action?; who are the people involved; and given the former two, what is possible. Some of you may recognize that from Aristotle's Poetics. It gives me a nifty differentiating advantage in this day and age of herd journalism, while at the same time makes any newsroom management that hires me very nervous. So it's better for all of us if I work out of the home.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (12 of 38), Read 54 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 05:24 PM Now. Back to The Corrections. Whether someone "likes" it or "dislikes it" (an approach to literature that always makes me uncomfortable), the book has merit. It's a scathing picture of the world we have created for ourselves, particularly in this country. Right now, we are consuming 60% of the world's energy. For what? To pour into the tanks of sexed up station wagons called sports utility vehicles, which are trucks that are not trucks. Overall all, although the US has 5% of the world's population, we consume (that word again) 25% of the natural resources consumed from mother earth each year. Now, just for fun over the holidays, try a little meditation/contemplation: As you're at your Christmas day dinner, select a few members of those present equal to 5% of the table. Then look at the food on the table, and imagine those 5% consuming 60% of it; or 25% of the food. Visualize 25% of the food on the table sitting in front of those 5%. How do you feel about them? In The Corrections, Franzen zeroes in on the consumer society. In Gary's mind/house, the downstairs contains bins, upon bins, of stuff. So much stuff that it can't be used. Gary's family is drowning in stuff. By the time the stuff can be pulled out of the bins and be organized so that it can be used, it's time to move on to something else. And the stuff gets tossed back into the bins. Isn't it interesting that Gary's chapter is about anger. Anyone want to go there, look at the connection between anger and the greed engine that drives the greatest consumption machine this side of a black hole?
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (13 of 38), Read 47 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Theresa Simpson theresa.a.simpson@gte.net Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001 02:48 AM Or, Bob, you can simply use the main Google page and put the phrase you're searching for in quotes (i.e., "martin zook"); if you want both terms but not necessarily together, +martin +zook; if you want one term but not the other, +martin -zook. And so on. What I don't like about Google is you can't select language from the main page, and when you go to advanced, it makes you re-enter your search parameters. Martin, I'd be interested to to know which newsletter you edit. I practice IP law, and have many, many clients in the technology field. Theresa Take out your brain and jump on it. It gets all caked up. Mark Twain.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (14 of 38), Read 46 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001 08:34 AM I am sticking with the reading of this novel, but finding it truly difficult going. As a dedicated reader, I hardly ever give up on a book, so I know I will finish eventually. However, I have even interrupted reading for housework, which is an almost unheard of activity. My problem with the book is not with the plot or character, but with the writing and the narrative. The commentary on the consumer society is close to my heart, but the way in which it is presented is where I quarrel with the novel. I feel that the author is ostentatiously obscure, his erudition comes across as a pose, and I cannot sincerely care about his views. I feel that he has overdone some of the characters to the point of caricature, particularly Enid. I am beginning to feel a bit of sympathy for her because of his delineation -- I wonder if this was his intention. I am slogging on -- about page 275, I think, but I see some dust .........
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (15 of 38), Read 40 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001 11:32 AM I know books just are that way, Lee, there's no such thing a a book that's a hit for every reader. But it is still hard to imagine in this case. I zipped with glee through The Corrections, with the exception of the one bit I mentioned the first time we were discussing it, which seemed arbitrary and out of whack. I think I read it in 2 or 3 days, in spite of its 500+ pages. And I'm really a slow reader. Thanks for indulging me, Martin. While there is no rule that says you must reveal personal stuff on CR, it sure helps me see who I'm talking to. I agree with your comments, of course, but although the fact that Franzen satirized our society may make the book lasting and memorable, that's not why it was so compelling to read. I couldn't stop reading because of the characters and their stories. It seems to me he took a chance writing those huge sections. Because I was so concerned about and sympathetic to Chip within the first few pages, and had to know his fate, I had to read and read and READ to get that. Luckily for him, in the process I got involved with all the others. But Chip was always key. Anyway, on to Gary & family; as I recall it, Gary didn't completely have his heart in the wrong place. He wanted very much to have the family he dreamed of. Gary was striving to realize that ideal as he impotently tried to thwart Caroline. She is a pure consumer, even food and mealtime lose to a Sony Playstation. It seemed to me that Franzen wanted to show that forfeiting their history and family forced them to look for something to fill the space. Does Gary's family's dinner come before or after the "dinner from hell"? I can't remember now, but soon enough you'll have these two dinners to compare: Gary's childhood dinner, and his current dinner. Some things never change. Tonya
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (16 of 38), Read 41 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001 12:47 PM "...the fact that Franzen satirized our society may make the book lasting and memorable, that's not why it was so compelling to read. I couldn't stop reading because of the characters and their stories." Tonya -- I'm with you on this, except I'm not so sure about this book's staying power. I think a lot of this will be dated in short order, too many references that will be question marks in a short while. But, yes, the characters are compelling despite the fact that Franzen is an ideas guy. These characters (with the exception of the talking turd) are real, live, and with us today. The turd is too in the deranged minds of those who couldn't hack it in the consumer age. The dinner from hell follows Gary's family's dinner. It's easier to be sympathetic toward Gary once we understand the house in which he grew up. The author who I think is the best at creating sympathy for just about all of his characters is Faulkner. But Franzen does a highly credible job of presenting these guys in a light that spontaneously elicits aversion and compassion. I'm still working on Gary's and Alfred's anger and its root cause. It seems important at this point (just finished with the vociferous feces).
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (17 of 38), Read 39 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001 01:45 PM Wow, I've just rolled through all 16 of these mostly meaty posts. Not sure I can remember enough of the points I wanted to respond to, so I'll just say that like Tonya, I couldn't put the book down. Plowed thru it in a couple of days. But all the while, I had a little sneaky feeling of guilt, that I was reading a soap opera disguised as literature. Not sure what made me feel that way. Perhaps the writing style? Perhaps the almost over-the-top situations? Perhaps the combination of the two. Ruth As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there, Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses, Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Richard Wilbur Walking to Sleep
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (18 of 38), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001 02:54 PM Ruth, C'mon, I've forgotten lots of details, and I'm still trying! Martin, perhaps I should have said the characters and their stories will make the book last for me. In the same way that The Bonfire or the Vanities exemplified social trends so perfectly as to make it seem they originated there, I have a feeling that in the future, when I think about the 90's, I'll think about The Corrections. It was interesting how sympathy for Chip was so immediate, while for Gary it was a long process. Actually I wondered if the recent book Stiffed could explain how Gary got to this sad state. A glimpse at his childhood, though, was a pretty good argument for why he couldn't correct things. Tonya
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (19 of 38), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001 03:25 PM One thought about the title. I took it to mean corrections in the sense of setting a course or direction, say 40 degrees SSW; then realizing you have to correct that course, either because you've drifted off course, or you realize you no longer want to aim for that end goal. Ruth As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there, Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses, Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Richard Wilbur Walking to Sleep
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (20 of 38), Read 40 times Conf: Constant Reader From: William Hayes Date: Thursday, December 20, 2001 04:13 PM Ruth Glad to read your comment about the title. Titles aren't everything, but they are something. There is a wonderful passage, in the novel SUMMER GONE by David MacFarlane, describing a canoe stroke, which involves a "pull" followed by a "pry". The pull moves the canoe forward, but not quite in the direction intended; the pry is the little correction at the end of the stroke that sets the canoe back on course. Such corrections are intended to keep the canoeist on track, going in the direction chosen. My understanding is that Franzen is using the term to mean changes in the direction (the destination, the product) or changes in the method of travel (the journey, the process). But then, I haven't read the book as you have, so I've already said too much. Bill
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (21 of 38), Read 38 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 09:46 AM Ruth, Like a sopa oprah, huh. That reminded me of someone else's comparison of the book to Jerry Springer. My initial reaction was to think this denigrates the craft of Franzen's work. But at the same time a little voice in the back was piping up, hold on to that judgment, it sounds like it could be wrong. And now I know why I think it's wrong. It is like a soap (and I suppose Springer, although I've never seen the show) because the fuel that runs both engines is anxiety. Franzen's characters are always correcting anxieties, the prior generations, others, their own. And that's what soap characters do, try to keep their heads above water in a torrent of anxiety. Berry Gute.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (22 of 38), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 10:46 AM I think you're right about that Martin. They are frantic and fretful and moving and acting all the time. Except Alfred, it is easy to see the burden Enid is shouldering there, he feels like dead weight. On the surface, though, this book feels exhausting. Speaking of Enid, her getting the anti-embarrassment pills was the beginning of one of those strange strung-together coincidences for me. Dottie points out these kinds of things in her reading and life sometimes. After Enid, and on through the White Noise nomination for next year, it seemed I heard or read something about little magic pills (real or fantasy) every couple of days. Very strange. Have you read The Generator now? About to get to the Christmas? (What timing!) Tonya
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (23 of 38), Read 38 times Conf: Constant Reader From: William Hayes Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 11:24 AM Having written two social novels that failed, Franzen has made a correction. He is taking us in the same direction as before, but he has chosen a different method of getting us there. The Corrections is a family novel that with Oprah's help won't fail. But in Franzen's mind the family is just society "writ small". He uses the satirist's tool, presents us with a scaled-down view of society (a personal dystopia), and invites us to take in the view and, perhaps, see ourselves. Most of us don't see ourselves -- Martin has gone so far as to deny ever watching Jerry Springer! Perhaps we CR's are somehow immune to, somehow inoculated against what Franzen sees as the venalities of contemporary middle class life that, in his view, infect so many. I can picture Franzen's characters walking out of the end of the last chapter of THE CORRECTIONS novel into the first chapter of Saramago's BLINDNESS. What a surprise they are in for, eh?
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (24 of 38), Read 38 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Bob Markiewicz bobmark226@aol.com Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 12:57 PM On 12/21/2001 11:24:00 AM, William Hayes wrote: >Having written two social >novels that failed, Franzen >has made a correction. How did Franzen fail? By not producing a bestseller? His first novel, THE TWENTY SEVENTH CITY, admittedly not perfect (what is? CORRECTIONS isn't either.) put him on the critical map. Before CORRECTIONS came out, Franzen was named one of the best American novelists under forty by Granta and The New Yorker. Bob
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (25 of 38), Read 40 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 11:55 AM Oh, I don't know if I'd give Alfred a clean bill of health on the anxiety score. Are we to think his degeneration is not linked the anxieties he created for himself? You can't get too more anxious than when you're threatened by talking turds. But yeah. All anxious all the time. We are neurosis. An interesting footnote, toward the end of Alfred's section Franzen references Alfred's impending "night terrors" as a comes to an end. This is a specific clinical term used to describe pre-nightmares that children have. It seems to me that Franzen is describing a mental cycle here. Remember Alfred's wearing diapers -- at night. Just a thought.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (26 of 38), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 01:49 PM William -- You're right, of course. The Corrections is relevant in a scary way. Many of the points are not lost on this reader. We quite literally have the bins of stuff as Franzen describes. And we wrestle with clinically diagnosed depression, too. And we hope our children do better. But, for the record, not only have I never seen Springer, but I steadfastly refuse to wear a diaper.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (27 of 38), Read 40 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 02:10 PM Hell, I don't even know who Jerry Springer is. But I plead guilty to the bins of stuff. Ruth As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there, Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses, Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Richard Wilbur Walking to Sleep
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (28 of 38), Read 34 times Conf: Constant Reader From: William Hayes Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 04:23 PM Beats me, Bob. Perhaps you meant meant to ask the question, "Why does Franzen think that he failed?" Check out the answer he, himself, gives in an article (about him, his stuff with Oprah, and The Corrections) that appeared in an issue of Time last summer -- did anyone else read it? As I recall, Franzen feels that, since no grand social upheaval followed the publication of either of his first two books, they were failures. As I said once before, this guy ain't no Emily Dickinson. You and I, Bob, obviously set a much lower standard of success for our own writings. I myself am satisfied with having won the recent prize for obfuscation -- thanks again, EDD. I've watched Jerry's show half a dozen times, Ruth, and I still don't know who he is, but I do have an idea what he does when his wife is asleep and the shades are drawn.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (29 of 38), Read 31 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, December 21, 2001 06:58 PM >>I do have an idea what he does when his wife is asleep and the shades are drawn. Dance Russe? Ruth As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there, Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses, Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Richard Wilbur Walking to Sleep
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (30 of 38), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Saturday, December 22, 2001 09:09 AM I have finished reading The Corrections, and as I approached the end of it, I began to appreciate it more. I am not certain whether the change in attitude was because I had nearly made it, or whether it was because the last third appealed to me more. I have somewhat changed my opinion of the novel, although I feel it could do with serious editing. If Krantzen is indeed one of the best young authors, I hope I never have to read the second or third best. I did not find him particularly brilliant, although on occasion some of his language did make an impression on me. As a satirist, I found him heavy-handed, and I realize I prefer my satire biting but lightly done. I also felt that his characterizations were uneven. Enid and Alfred seemed to be quite thoroughlyportrayed, but Caroline and the wife whom Denise seduced were quite unrealistic to me.Caroline, in particular, seemed to be such a caricature that she undermined much of my confidence in the author. As for Krantzen's satire of the "consumer society" and his metaphor of "correction", I sympathise with his aims, but I felt that he was being vastly over-rated for its accomplishment. On the whole, I am glad I managed to finish it, I don't think it is great, and I am on to Timothy Findley.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (31 of 38), Read 33 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, December 22, 2001 01:17 PM I pretty much agree with your assessment of the book's literary aspirations, Lee. Still, I couldn't put it down. I just had to find out what happened next. Occasionally, I thought Franzen stuck the knife in quite deftly, but I may like a heavier touch than you. I loved the description of the house in the first chapter. I kept saying to myself, "Yes!" One thing that bothered me is that F never made clear that Alfred's mental aberrations were probably not directly related to his Parkinson's. It had to have been either overmedication, or it was a separate issue. P doesn't generally cause you to go beansy. I'm a little sensitive about this, I guess, because my father had P, and I think of all the other P victims, etc., who'll read this book and think it's an unfair portrait. Something that puzzled me is what F hoped to accomplish by having Alfred fall off the ship. I thought it was going to be a way to polish him off, but no, he bounces back seemingly little the worse, and little changed, from his ungainly dive. To what purpose did F include this event then? Ruth As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there, Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses, Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Richard Wilbur Walking to Sleep
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (32 of 38), Read 32 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Saturday, December 22, 2001 04:51 PM I felt that Franzen included a few events which were gratuitous, including the fall from the ship. At first I, like you, expected that this was going to be the way of removing Alfred from Enid's life. When he survived, it seemed to be just one more way of harassing Enid. I met a friend at our local market today, and she had heard raves about this book. I was the only reader, apparently, in her whole acquaintance, who was less than thrilled. I suspect that she will tread warily in my presence in future, wondering about my sanity .........
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (33 of 38), Read 22 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Wednesday, December 26, 2001 11:52 AM "Something that puzzled me is what F hoped to accomplish by having Alfred fall off the ship." Far from being "gratuitous," there was something there, I thought. Notice in that passage that in the water Alfred finds himself in a world without material things, except for the flotation device to which he clings. He has been headed toward that direction for a long time. It seems to me that the passage signals the irreversible journey down that path where Alfred ultimately becomes dissociated from the world that is governed by anxiety. Isn't it interesting that during the Christmas dinner Alfred may not know is right from his left, but he has an objective (and sane?) perspective on the anxiety that erupts -- especially from Gary, Denise, and Enid. Alfred becomes more child-like, closer to the mind of a child (directions of the compass mean nothing to him), and that process accelerates after the plunge into the world without the material boundaries which have been used to define his life to that point. In the end, it seems, Alfred it seems plunges into the mind of the unborn. And he ultimately does so by starving that house of the ego, the body. It's the final escape, the only avenue open to him after they've prevented him from hanging himself and taken away his shotgun shells.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (34 of 38), Read 20 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Wednesday, December 26, 2001 12:55 PM Martin, That is brilliant! I had hoped to reread that section after the festivities, and now I don't even need to. I had that fuzzy feeling that the plunge was an integral part of the book, but the reason was beyond my memory. Honestly, there is all the difference in the world in Alfred before the plunge, and Alfred after the plunge. I remember the exercises Denise tried to do with him, a scene I found touching and upsetting. Now that the festivities are mostly over, I do hope discuss more of The Corrections with you; you are a much more observant reader than I am, and your posts really hit the nail on the head. Tonya
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (35 of 38), Read 20 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, December 26, 2001 01:31 PM Very insightful, Martin. All that makes perfect sense and yet it passed me by entirely. Ruth As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there, Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses, Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Richard Wilbur Walking to Sleep
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (36 of 38), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, December 27, 2001 06:05 AM Tonya & Ruth, Thanks for your kind words. I'm fumbling around with this book. It seems to me that there's a lot there that's easy to miss. It seems to me that one of the things that gives The Corrections merit is that it studies the relationship between our drive to consume and the underlying anxiety, but perhaps beyond that how the anxiety is created. There are also some interesting parallels between Alfred and his children in the Christmas chapter. More later. Traveling today. Back for the new year.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (37 of 38), Read 22 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lee Beech lee.beech@sympatico.ca Date: Thursday, December 27, 2001 08:19 AM I had felt that the fall from the ship had significance, but I was puzzled by what it was. I was also too lazy, and too disenchanted by the writing to be bothered getting my brain out of neutral. I suspect that Martin's analysis has merit, although I do feel that Franzen is self-consciously "intellectual" and rather a poseur.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (38 of 38), Read 11 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, December 28, 2001 08:52 AM Tonya, will this discussion be saved on the CR webpage? My sister recently finished The Corrections and is bringing it to me on a visit. I would love to reread everything that has been said here when I finish. She said that she almost put the book down midway through but was very glad that she finished it in the end. One of her positive comments had to do with Franzen's portrayal of the relationships between the family members, sort of cutting right to the bone of it, I think. Will try to get her here to comment. Barb
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (40 of 40), Read 8 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Friday, December 28, 2001 04:01 PM I caught the last 15 minutes of Franzen on Charlie Rose last night. He did comment on the Oprah situation and I thought was appropriately humble about his mistakes and also surprised at what a brouhaha it all ended up to be. Also that he'd locked himself up in a room for a long time away from people and didn't really think before he spoke when he emerged. I thought that painted an interesting picture. The only thing that he really said that struck me about his writing was that he had very intentionally in the past tried to not use anything from his own life in his books. In this one he said he let it slip in more but still used no real incidents and disguised things. When asked if this was his 'great novel' he said that he was working on his next one. I got the book yesterday and hope that by the time I get into it, you'll all still be here discussing it. ;) Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (41 of 45), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, December 29, 2001 10:27 AM Soap box rant coming up. I think I won't bother with this book. From the discussion, I'd say Franzen's point about middle class consumerism is trite. Frankly, I find the observation unoriginal and dull-witted. I felt the same way about Vanity of the Bonfires. Tell me something new. The middle class is an easy target these days. Stereotypes are noted for being inaccurate and providing blinders in how we see others. Instead of using a family to demonstrate a commonly perceived, if inaccurate, trend, use it to show how that family bucks the blinded views. It's possible to be middle class and have strong family and community values. Write about individuals. Don't give me popular, stereotypical tripe. End of rant for the time being. Kay, running for cover K
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (42 of 45), Read 20 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, December 29, 2001 10:37 AM Side note: A CNN interview with a Man on the Street asked, "Has 9-11 changed you in any way?" One response - "Oh, yeah. I realized that life isn't about money and things. It's about the people you love and care for." Well, DUH! K
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (43 of 45), Read 18 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Saturday, December 29, 2001 02:47 PM Kay, Here's a sample of the writing you can read on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/books/0374100128/reader/ref=pm_dp_ln_b_5/103-6820727-4203036#reader-link Hopefully that link'll work. At least give it a look. I'm only about 50 pages into it and it'a a tough book to describe. It's not particularly fun but he is *different*. And though I'm not going to defend him, I don't think that your criticism holds. (Though I don't think I'm far enough along to really tell you why yet.) He said (on Charlie Rose) that the characters *are* the book and I think that might be true. He's very good at describing their anxiety which is what's coming through most for me so far. This is why I say it's not particularly fun (like I need more anxiety) but his descriptive style is unique and does sorta slip things by you as go along. Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (44 of 45), Read 15 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, December 29, 2001 03:49 PM I found it to be a real page-turner, Kay. Ruth As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there, Or a general raises his hand and is given the field glasses, Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind. Richard Wilbur Walking to Sleep
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (45 of 45), Read 12 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, December 29, 2001 07:24 PM The plot may be great. He may have terrific anxiety driven characters. But does the reader learn anything or gain a new perspective on living? Is there anything new about realizing we consume more than we need and that we often miss opportunities for truly living as a result? Of course, I'd have to read it, but from the comments, I'm not intrigued. Sounds like it's another comment on the superficial, angst ridden, stereotypical folks that make up the middle class. I find that theme done to death. I think where I pull away from Franzen is where he hopes to write a "social" novel that will change society. Oh, please. Talk about writing a novel that panders to a commonly held perspective just to sell books.... I'll hush now and let those who found significance in Franzen's work continue the discussion. I really shouldn't have commented at all, since I haven't read it. I was just trying to explain why this novel holds no interest for me. Keep in mind that BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES and MAN IN FULL both bored me to tears, and I'm classifying this one in the same category. K
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (46 of 54), Read 36 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Monday, December 31, 2001 12:36 PM "But does the reader learn anything or gain a new perspective on living? Is there anything new about realizing we consume more than we need and that we often miss opportunities for truly living as a result?" Well, yes, the opportunity to learn is there. But that depends on the reader. Not all readers believe art shoulders a burden to teach. A couple of fellows named Barth and Gardner had much to say about that question. If you are a wheel ready to be turned by The Corrections, then, yes, it has something profound to offer you. If you are not, then no, it has nothing for you. Ha, ha! The book has no monolithic objective reality. Oooops. Nothing new there, is there? I am reminded K of something I heard a monk say, to the effect: If the message is true, it is always fresh. It never gets old. There is much that is fresh about The Corrections. I saw characters creating a space in which to live. And the spaces they created (the movies they directed?) did not allow them to be peaceful. Does this have meaning? I just returned from visiting my brother in North Carolina. He lives in a shack. The only heat comes from two stoves. You can't drink the water. You can quite literally hang meat in the back bedroom. The floors don't slope so much as run in opposite directions. No door closes in the house. He has more than 20 exotic chickens (too many roosters, too few hens), a pet peg, the most beautiful peacock I've ever seen, kittens and cats that gambol about. He's an architect whose work is recognized across the country. He has more work than he can say grace over. Half his income goes to his former wife. He is still very angry. In his shack without a TV, without a toy, his teenage daughters and my 9 years old daughter and 6 years old son entertained one another nicely. The older girls were especially wonderful withe the younger, creating a space where the younger felt at ease. The girls did this by asking my kids questions about themselves and putting their guests' concerns ahead of their own. But there are concerns. I won't go into them here. But each has their own anxieties, rooted in our anxieties, rooted in our parents anxieties, rooted...So, you're right. Nothing too particularly new in recognizing the types of space we create for ourselves and others; and that the family is the center stage on which we play. You're right. That part is easy (Although portraying it as artfully as Franzen does is not). The tough part is what we're doing about it. And dwelling upon that, improving upon it, is always, as the monk said, "fresh." And if the story helps us focus (it does for me), then it's a good story, in my school of criticism.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (47 of 54), Read 35 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Monday, December 31, 2001 09:33 PM I was wondering when I started this book what some of you meant when you said this was a 'page turner'. It is but not in any way that I've ever experienced before. I sat down with it and didn't move for 3 hours last night. I was trying to describe the writing style to Eddie and he said that it sounded like Virginia Woolfe (I haven't read her--anyone see a similar in structure?) The thing that amazed me was how, without chapters, that he constructed a large narrative with small segments where he alternated characters in a way that wasn't jarring. There, in the middle of a page, is a change from one character/vignette to another but he's tied the whole thing together so that you not only want to know what happened with the character you're leaving but what's the latest with the character you're back visiting with again. The is truly a dysfunctional family and I've avoided books with topics like this like the plague. Yet, I'm enthralled by this book, I guess. I can also see how it takes some stopping (which is hard when you're turning the pages that fast ;) and reflecting to see some of what's going on. I did just get to the part where it was a bit convenient for Gary to be an investment banker to deal with the patent stuff. But it snuck up on me so there was no glimmer of disbelief in me when I read it. And as bizarre as some of it is--the salmon in the pants, sniffing the chair--it fits in perfectly with the way he's drawn the characters. Mixed grill will never be the same. ;) This is a really really tough book to describe. The other thing that's counterintuitive about it is that he writes long sentences and uses semi-colons which usually tend to slow down the reader. In this case there's something about the way he puts together his sentences that moves things along. In fact, structurally, I think that he puts his sentences together in the same way that he's constructed the whole book. The little vignette-segments tie together and move things along. It's really a fascinating thing to think about. The other thing that's very different about the writing is the word choice. I'm supposed to be reading this for work which means picking out words that are new or used differently than usual. Most of the time reading a novel, these things jump out at me. But Franzen uses words differently in his sentences so that a new usage is not always apparent. He either sneaks it by me or he makes things that aren't new *sound* new. He hyphenates words in interesting ways, for example. The example I just found was that he talked about 'cent-rust' as something coming from a corroded penny. The other thing I've found myself doing is identifying with different characters at different times. I was there rooting for Gary when he was trying to get his father to get more money for the patent. I'm sure I've got lots more to say about I've got to go back and read some more. ;) Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (48 of 54), Read 35 times Conf: Constant Reader From: William Hayes Date: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 02:21 AM Not all readers believe art shoulders a burden to teach. -- Martin Z. Even more to the point, Martin, not all writers believe it, but some do and some very few of those are very good writers. Clearly Franzen is a believer. The question then seems to be this: is he one of the very few, very good ones? You seem to think, perhaps with some reservations, that he is and in this regard you have made interesting observations, for which I am personally thankful. Most other readers seem thoroughly uninterested in the question.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (49 of 54), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 09:52 AM Thanks, William. You're, of course, right about how art's burden is perceived. I agree with you that Franzen falls squarely in the Gardner camp and thinks that art has a social responsibility. It's an interesting book in how it appeals (or doesn't) to readers. I think a lot of people got caught up in the hype and subsequent Oprah blowup, and were put in a mind to condemn the book before even cracking the cover. The characters are also compelling. Anytime you have such artistically portrayed characters, a fair number of readers are going to concentrate on them. It's a pretty immediate handle.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (50 of 54), Read 35 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 10:01 AM >The is truly a dysfunctional family and I've avoided books with topics like this like the plague. Bo -- that's how the Lamberts are being painted in the press. But are they? They stay in touch. They talk. They advance. They get together for Christmas. They visit one another. They're, to a degree, welcome in one another's houses/minds. The divorce rate at the Lamberts is 33%, considerably below the national average. In a way, they're no more dysfunctional than a lot of other families. And that's the scary part. You're of course right. They are dysfunctional. They recognize they are dysfunctional and that's what they're constantly trying to correct, in their own laughable and sad ways, no? You liked the scene with the divan? I think Franzen embellished that from Faulkner, whose school teacher in the Snopes trilogy rushes the Varner girl's seat each day to rub his face in the residual warmth of the seat after the students leave. Billy gave it a passing mention -- sort of a bolt of humor that doubled me over with laughter. Franzen relishes (so to speak) the scene a little more. Same effect.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (51 of 54), Read 29 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 09:36 PM Martin, >>>Bo -- that's how the Lamberts are being painted in the press. But are they? They stay in touch. They talk. They advance. They get together for Christmas. They visit one another. They're, to a degree, welcome in one another's houses/minds. Very well put. I'm glad I didn't avoid the book because of the hype. This book is so difficult to describe because there are so many things that it isn't. >>In a way, they're no more dysfunctional than a lot of other families. And that's the scary part. I find myself changing loyalties, identifying with parts of characters and then wishing I hadn't! I just got to the Dinner of Revenge. GADS! How wonderfully he described each item of food. I think I can visually picture a lot of this book which makes it pull me in more. The Dinner of Revenge really puts a lot of the characters into a new perspective for me. I'm starting to understand Albert for the first time--like why I shouldn't perhaps have been on Gary's side with the patent thing. ;) And certainly this starts to explain Chip a lot more. And Enid. >>You're of course right. They are dysfunctional. They recognize they are dysfunctional and that's what they're constantly trying to correct, in their own laughable and sad ways, no? Definitely! Has anyone tracked his use of the word 'correction' in the book. He doesn't use it much but when he does it seems to jump out of the page at me. >>You liked the scene with the divan? I think Franzen No, like wouldn't be the word I'd use. I thought it was funny though. As many of Chips antics are, and sad. >>embellished that from Faulkner, whose school teacher in Ah, I haven't read much of him to have seen any connection. I wonder how many other literary allusions are in the book. I'm not catching any but I'm having to force myself to analyze and not just get swept away with this. I have a feeling that I'm going to wish I'd thought about it more as I went along. The 'hint' about the stuff onboard the ship was dropped but haven't gotten to the 'event' yet. Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (52 of 54), Read 26 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 10:37 PM "I wonder how many other literary allusions are in the book." A ton, I think, Bo. For instance, I think Chip is our post modern innocent, based on an allusion so strong that it's an echo of Umberto Echo's post word to Name of the Rose, or at least one edition, in which he posits that the pomo man can be directly innocent. He knows. And he knows that she knows. And she knows that he knows. So that the only avenue is to quote his feelings in the context of someone who knows and has already expressed the emotion. If you can't find it but want to compare it to Chip's windup of his class, let me know. There are others. For instance, the drug on the ship coincides with the lion, or Christ character, in the Narnia tales. There are one or two others I am aware of but need to pull together to be much good. I'm not very good on catching allusions (not widely enough read). I suspect there are many, many more.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (53 of 54), Read 27 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Wednesday, January 02, 2002 01:03 AM Martin, >>"I wonder how many other literary allusions are in the book." A ton, I think, Bo.<< >>For instance, I think Chip is our post modern innocent, based on an allusion so strong that it's an echo of Umberto Echo's post word to Name of the Rose, or at least one I'm not sure I follow you here. > He knows. And he knows that she knows. And she knows that he knows. So that the only avenue is to quote his feelings in the context of someone who knows and has already expressed the emotion. This makes sense, though. If this is what's meant above, then, OK, I get it. :) >> If you can't find it but want to compare it to Chip's windup of his class, let me know. That's OK. Literature isn't really my strong suit. >>There are others. For instance, the drug on the ship coincides with the lion, or Christ character, in the Narnia tales. I noticed this and thought it was simply great. Aslan with the drug symbol. I did notice how he used Narnian adjectives to describe Gary's youngest child while he was reading the books. I have to admit that the talking turd was a bit hard for me to take. It was brilliant in a way but I tired of it quickly. As I did of Enid acquaintance on the ship. This is really the first time I've either had MEGO or been impatient with the book so far (which is pretty good considering how long it is). Did someone else say that had trouble in the middle? This is right smack dab in the middle. This was as far as I got before 'real life' came to distract me. Hopefully I'll be able to get some time tomorrow to make more progress. Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (54 of 54), Read 12 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Saturday, January 05, 2002 07:20 PM I can see how many people dropped this book in the middle. As soon as Enid and Albert went on the cruise it slowed down for me. When Franzen switched to that descriptive stuff that led into Denise's early life I was having a hard time paying attention to the page. I wonder if he just didn't care about Denise as much as a character. Surely the other characters were written much more sharply. And why not start with Denise herself and then get on to her early affairs as opposed to that long drawn out other stuff? It seemed to me that when Franzen was writing about the characters in the family, he was sharp and the writing moved. When he went on tangents (like with that woman on the ship) it dragged. It's starting to pick up again so I'm hopeful. :) I started to read some of the earlier notes in this thread and when I get a chance I'm going to go back to them. There are a lot of interesting ideas. Plus it's also interesting to me to see how we all relate to this book differently. Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (23 of 28), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2002 10:17 PM Interesting observations, Bo. Denise was the first character to pop into Franzen's thinking. And the cruise was the first passage he completed.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (24 of 28), Read 31 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2002 11:01 PM Martin, I appreciate the fact that you're still coming back to talk to me about the book. I'm always reading things after everyone else is done. ;) Interesting about when he wrote the ship scene. Perhaps he got better as he went along. ;) At the point where Enid is talking to the woman on the ship the plot came to a dead halt for me. I didn't think he kept the same momentum in the second half. though perhaps his purpose changed. I finished tonight. When I finished Eddie (who's been listening to me complain about the second half for days now) asked me if this was a good 300 page book. I only had to think about this for a minute to say that I probably only would have cut about 20 pages out of it. It all hung together and parts that bored me when I was reading them (like Denise's early affairs) did make perfect sense tied together to the whole. Was Albert's quitting his job the only loving thing he did in his life? I thought Franzen tieing that together with the bench in that moment of semi-lucidity at the end was masterful. I'm not sure how I felt about the ending. Overall I felt satisfied. I guess the only character that I didn't feel that he did much with was Gary. I felt more satisfied with the other characters. There is a ton of stuff to think about. I think your comment about his comparing the family to the house was more true for me after finishing the book. The family was tied to that particular house and all the memories and the ways in which they changed when they were there. I've thought about that myself with my own childhood home. This is one of the most complex and multilayered books I've read in a long time. Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (25 of 28), Read 29 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, January 10, 2002 08:57 AM The pleasure is mine, Bo. I think you're right. There are many layers to delve into here. Regarding your query about whether Alfred ever did anything loving for others, I think that he led a life of denying himself for others. It's easy to see him as someone who was "bad" because of the harsh discipline he handed down. But I think that is to fall into the judgment trap. Judging these characters is a trap, I think. Alfred and Denise are the creators in this family. They're the only ones who create anything -- his patents in his basement lab (Alfred as Thomas Jefferson's yeoman?), and Denise in her kitchen. Each member of the family starts in the house (space) that Alfred created. Gary saw a prison, and created an even more secure prison in his house. Neither Denise, nor Chip, own a house. Denise's space speaks of someone who lacks her father's sense of commitment, except in her work, where she is every bit as committed. Chip? Well, his space is little more than shelter from the storm.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (26 of 28), Read 20 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Thursday, January 10, 2002 08:52 PM Martin, >>Regarding your query about whether Alfred ever did anything loving for others, I think that he led a life of denying himself for others. There's one passage that I found that I thought summed up Alfred: p.266 "The taste of self-inflicted suffering, of an evening trashed in spite, brought curious satisfaction. Other people stopped being real enough to carry blame for how you felt. Only you and your refusal remained. And like self-pity, or like the blood that filled your mouth when a tooth was pulled--the salty ferric juices that you swallowed and allowed yourself to savor--refusal had a flavor for which a taste could be acquired." At one point Denise begins to understand Al by saying that he loved by keeping himself distant and that she was doing something of the same thing. (Bad paraphrase). I see Al as refusing but not necessarily as self-denying except in that case for Denise. Perhaps I'm not giving enough credit to providing financially for the family here as I should, though. >>fall into the judgment trap. Judging these characters is a trap, I think. I found myself all over the map on this one. I found myself judging a character, identifying with him/her, changing my mind. All over the place. >>Alfred and Denise are the creators in this family. They're the only ones who create anything -- his patents in his basement lab (Alfred as Thomas Jefferson's yeoman?), and Denise in her kitchen. I don't know why I didn't see this before! You're right! And they are the two characters I liked the least and perhaps the ones that made the second half of the book drag for me. >>Each member of the family starts in the house (space) that Alfred created. Gary saw a prison, and created an even more secure prison in his house. As I reflected back on the book, Gary is the one that I found least believable as a character. What about you? >> Neither Denise, nor Chip, own a house. Denise's space speaks of someone who lacks her father's sense of commitment, except in her work, where she is every bit as committed. What do you think made Denise the way she was? Was it lack of commitment? >> Chip? Well, his space is little more than shelter from the storm. Do you think that changed in the end for him? I think that it did. I've been trying to describe this book to people who haven't heard about it or read it. It's a tough thing to do. Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (27 of 28), Read 20 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Thursday, January 10, 2002 10:14 PM On Gary, I found his character very credible. All of these characters I find credible. Not just as people I've known, or know, but also, sadly, elements of same within myself. That's what's so creepy about this book. And perhaps why some people have such a strong aversion to it. I think I might tend to see Alfred more from the perspective you present, if it weren't for Gary. I think Gary acts as a foil for Alfred. Alfred made sacrifices that cost money, money that was in greater demand than in Gary's house. Not only did he sacrifice his retirement over the Denise affair; but he could have made a ton buying Erie stock before the acquisition. We see Gary trying to leverage his father (but not caring for his father) to cash in on Corektal. Denise was thoroughly confused. No central focus to her life. She couldn't even declare on the issue of sex. She loved men. Didn't love men. She wasn't a lesbian. She was. She switch hit, not because she was bisexual, but because she got caught up by lovers of both sexes. But the periphery of her life, the daily life, was in sharp focus, for the most part. She could run a top flight kitchen (talk about organized). Day by she seemed to know what she was doing, with the exception of when the wheels fell off in Philly, but even then she could pull it together to rush to New York, entertain her folks while Chip chased, well whatever it was that Chip was chasing.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (28 of 28), Read 15 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Friday, January 11, 2002 06:03 PM Martin, >>On Gary, I found his character very credible. I thought so through the first half of the book but when I finished the book and reflected back on the characters, he's the one that I felt like was the least developed. There was something 'missing' from Gary or was that also intentional, do you think? >> All of these characters I find credible. Not just as people I've known, or know, but also, sadly, elements of same within myself. That's what's so creepy about this book. And perhaps why some people have such a strong aversion to it. I'm sure that's true. I did find myself identifying with Gary in that initial dispute over the patent. Later I saw him as more money-grubbing. And certainly we discovered more of Alfred's motivations and the background of using supplies from work for his experiments, etc. And I'm sure that's why this book brings out such love/hate reactions in people. There's a lot going on that can hit at all kinds of levels. I'm sure I'm going to be thinking about the various elements of this book for a long time to come. Certainly one of the most complex novels I've read in a long time. >>I think I might tend to see Alfred more from the perspective you present, if it weren't for Gary. I think Gary acts as a foil for Alfred. Alfred made sacrifices that cost money, money that was in greater demand than in Gary's house. Did Gary marry into money intentionally? These characters are a contrast. Is there more to their central conflict than money? >>Not only did he sacrifice his retirement over the Denise affair; but he could have made a ton buying Erie stock before the acquisition. Was this Alfred being ethical or stupid, do you think? >> We see Gary trying to leverage his father (but not caring for his father) to cash in on Corektal. I'm not sure I agree with you here. Probably because that's the point at which I identified with Gary. I've seen my parents make some really foolish financial decisions based on, well, probably reasons I had no clue about. I think that Gary was probably self-serving here but not entirely. I also think he had a 'fairness' idea at stake and that his father was being cheated. >>Denise was thoroughly confused. No central focus to her life. Food. It's what tied her (and kept her safe in her parents' home) and gave her life meaning. I found it really sad near the beginning when she's making something that her father can't eat. >> She couldn't even declare on the issue of sex. She loved men. Didn't love men. She wasn't a lesbian. She was. She switch hit, not because she was bisexual, but because she got caught up by lovers of both sexes. But the periphery of So, do you think Franzen has sex issues? Did he write enough/too much/not enough sex into this book, do you think? As for Denise I think that she looked to sex (like many people do) for meaning/belonging she didn't have elsewhere. York, entertain her folks while Chip chased, well whatever it was that Chip was chasing. Chip was the most lively character. I found it a bit pat at the end for him to 'settle down' but it did sort of bring him 'full circle' which is probably why I felt more satisfied with him as a character at the end of the book than I did with Gary. I just couldn't see Gary going back to his mixed grill and bizarre marriage. I read another really good novel sorta interspersed with this one and now I'm having a hard time finding something as good! Everything else seems rather blah! ;) Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (24 of 31), Read 33 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Monday, January 14, 2002 07:38 AM >Did Gary marry into money intentionally? These characters are a contrast. Is there more to their central conflict than money? The book doesn't explicitly address whether Gary married for money, although it seems a likely reason along with his physical attraction to Catherine. There's much to contrast between Alfred and Gary. The father is a figurative ascetic, living an ethos of self denial. The son is the exact opposite. Based upon that, look at the spaces the two create, especially their houses. Both houses are battlefields, as many "homes" are. But Alfred and Enid are a heck of a lot more compatible than Gary and Catherine, who wage open warfare that enlists the children. In the war of Alfred and Enid, the ping pong table is the focal battlefield. Enid has run of the top half of the house (even prevailing in the battle of the easy chair), Alfred's domain is his laboratory. In Gary's house, war is waged in every room, including the bedroom, where Gary maneuvers for his wife's money, and Catherine's strategy seems to be getting Gary back into the fold.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (25 of 31), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, January 14, 2002 10:19 AM Bo and Martin, Have you two ever read Love's Body by Norman O. Brown? Or, The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard? Bachelards book has chapters on 'attic' and 'nests' among other 'spaces'...I think it's been re-issued in the last ten years. Both these books kick around second hand stores too.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (26 of 31), Read 33 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Monday, January 14, 2002 10:51 AM Polymorphous Perverse Norman O. Brown ? pres
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (27 of 31), Read 34 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, January 14, 2002 11:38 AM The Poetics of Space rests in my bookcase not 6 feet from my elbow. I remember it as being an interesting book, but not easy slogging, but it was over 20 years ago that I read it. Ruth Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup. Anon.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (28 of 31), Read 32 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S. Bohinka bohinka@riconnect.com Date: Monday, January 14, 2002 04:58 PM Gads, the server is painfully slow today! Candy, neither of those books ring a bell. Martin, >>The book doesn't explicitly address whether Gary married for money, although it seems a likely reason along with his physical attraction to Catherine. That whole relationship had me more baffled than the rest of them in the book. >>>In Gary's house, war is waged in every room, including the bedroom, where Gary maneuvers for his wife's money, and Catherine's strategy seems to be getting Gary back into the fold. It's as though she treats him like one of the children in terms of having to have control over him. And the incident with the hedge trimmer has got to be the most blatantlyHey, let me maim myself so she'll have sex with me. Geez. Like you said, battle lines and everything used in battle. >>There's much to contrast between Alfred and Gary. The father is a figurative ascetic, living an ethos of self denial. The son is the exact opposite. Though is their existence that much different in reality? The one thing that also struck me about Enid is that she picked Alfred for his body and that's about all she got. Did Gary do the same thing? >>Based upon that, look at the spaces the two create, especially their houses. Both houses are battlefields, as many "homes" are. But Alfred and Enid are a heck of a lot more compatible than Gary and Catherine, who wage open warfare that enlists the children. Enid and Alfred staked out their territory and divided the house. Does that mean that they're more compatible or that it was more 'acceptable' to do it that way for their generation? At least Gary and his wife have momentary times of closeness when he gives in to her which is more than Enid and Alfred had when he was coherent. (I do think you might be taking this house imagery a bit far--not that it's not there, mind you, but it's not the only thing. ;) Bo
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (29 of 31), Read 28 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Monday, January 14, 2002 07:45 PM Bo, If you think I'm taking it far, reread those first 12 pages.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (30 of 31), Read 28 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, January 14, 2002 10:50 PM I've been kibitzing on this discussion here, and enjoying it. I remember loving those first pages, Martin, and their description of the house. (That IS what you're talking about, right?) Unfortunately, I gave the book to my daughter, or I would reread them, too. Ruth Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup. Anon.
Topic: THE CORRECTIONS (31 of 31), Read 28 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Martin Zook mlzii@aol.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 05:38 AM Yes, Ruth. The spaces we create aspect of the book jumped out at me. It's one of the things I try to stress in our home: what kind of space are we creating with our actions. Franzen's doing the same thing. In an interview (with I forget whom), he stressed that he was concentrating on developing characters and their relationship to space. 2003 Discussion
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, January 16, 2003 07:20 AM Since I read this a few months ago, I didn't want to reread it, but I saw that my library had the unabridged Recorded Books version, read by George Guidall. I'm now on the eight tape, where Franzen is going into detail about Al, at the beginning of the cruise. It's interesting hearing a book you have recently read. The painful parts are more painful, but the funny parts are even funnier. The need for an editor becomes a bit more evident, since Guidall is a rather slow reader, but great with voice nuances. This books seems to be one people either love or hate. It can be exasperating, but I'm exasperated with the characters, not with the writing. The characters are as real as most people I know. I want to throttle some, and I want to sit down and talk with some. I want to give advice and scream at some. I think that marks successful writing. What do you all think? Sherry
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (2 of 17), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, January 16, 2003 11:10 AM Sherry, I was about one-third through this book when I left for a long-distance business trip a week ago, and am heading home tomorrow. (It was too heavy to pack!) Hope to finish it this weekend. But so far, I think I am in the "exasperated" camp. Do any of the characters become likeable as the book goes on? Mary Ellen
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (3 of 17), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, January 16, 2003 11:18 AM I was in the middle when I read it over a year ago, Sherry. On the one hand, it held my attention and I enjoyed reading it. On the other, I thought it way too long, way too fussed over, and not very memorable. That last part is why I'm going to have a little trouble discussing it. Ruth
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (4 of 17), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, January 16, 2003 11:43 AM Not having finished THE CORRECTIONS yet, I’ll just say that so far Franzen has this searing black humor that often makes me howl with laughter while I ache with the pain of recognition. An alternate title could be CATCH 22222222222. Everyone is incarcerated in a modern day iron(y) maiden. Just like Franzen himself when he got into such a snafu with Oprah’s book club. Every reward has its debilitating price. And I guess my favorite aspect of the novel is the absolute franzy of wordplay. Robt
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (5 of 17), Read 40 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Thursday, January 16, 2003 02:14 PM I liked this book a lot, and for me, it seemed to pick up steam as it went along. Some things that I took as flip early on rang true later when I had been drawn into the characters more. Sherry, I agree that the characters were maddening at times, some more than others. SPOILERS************************** Even the purest of characters, Jonah, gets co-opted and seduced by the trappings of the crass materialism his mother represents, eventually. It seems like most of the characters have been co-opted in some way, except for maybe Al. Also, we've comment here on CR about great opening lines, but I think this book has one of the best final lines I've ever read. At least I know I let out a big laugh of delight when I read it. When I lay my hands on it, I will post it. Or maybe someone else will beat me to it. MAP
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (6 of 17), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Friday, January 17, 2003 05:38 PM I've been trying to finish this book in time to participate in my first ever CR reading discussion but just have not had sufficient time. I just finished Gary's section and it was really good. It's funny and just seems so true to life. Franzen seems very good in getting inside the head of his characters and exposing all their flaws. But it isn't tempered by any sympathy or compassion whatsoever, in fact, some of it seems quite cruel. In fact, this book is kinda scary because it makes me wonder if all marriages turn out like that in the end. So far, all of the married couples seem to take pleasure in doing things out of spite to the other person or getting revenge or nit-picking or nagging. Even the peripheral characters such as the neighbours and colleagues seem to be envying other people's partners, or generally preferring someone else's life to their own. Ee Lin
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (7 of 17), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Linda Brewer sihaya@aol.com Date: Friday, January 17, 2003 06:41 PM The realism of the characters do make the book worthwhile. If I had to compare "The Corrections" to another novel, I'd choose Wally Lamb's "I Know This Much Is True." The difference is that I ate up Lamb and resisted Franzen. After such great expectations, I really was disappointed to have to keep putting Corrections down from disinterest, but once I got past the obvious ploy of cleverness, I did like the book. Sometimes too much realism is bad, like in "The Thornbirds." I hated that the characters were taken from youth to old age. I hated that Al was so fraught with his affliction. Both were big, thick, meaty books though, and that's the best kind of all!
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (8 of 17), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, January 18, 2003 09:13 AM Glad you are joining us, Ee Lin. The section about Gary was the one that drove me to distraction. Caroline wins as the fictional character I'd most like to throttle. Maybe I relate because I've had such bad luck in sisters-in-law. I think the characters get a little more sympathetic after that section. A question: Why do you all think Al was so sexually frigid? He had this thing about Schopenhauer, but I don't know anything about him, except for the quotations within the book. Poor Enid--no wonder she's kind of batty. Sherry
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (9 of 17), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, January 18, 2003 04:04 PM I just finished this one this afternoon. I really got bogged down in the middle. The long descriptions of Al's turd hallucinations on the cruise ship almost led me to abandon ship, but I persisted and I'm very glad I did. With the exception of Gary (and his evil wife), I thought that all of the characters got more sympathetic as the book went on - or if not sympathetic, at least understandable. Enid was the most problematic for me, but Franzen makes you wonder what she could have been if she hadn't been trapped in a marriage with Al. She becomes a much nicer person when he is finally imprisoned in the nursing home. But isn't it ironic, in a really horrible way, how she is compelled to keep reminding him of every mistake he ever made? Sherry, I don't know why Al was so uninterested in sex. He was so controlling, maybe he found it too difficult to lose himself in sex. Maybe he and Enid were just terribly mismatched. As most of you know, my mother had Alzheimer's and lived at home for many years before my father was finally forced to put her in a nursing home. Their life at home was something like the battlefield of Al and Enid's marriage. Boy, did I understand the feelings of those adult children visiting on Christmas. You visit with every intention of being the perfect child for those few days, but it isn't long at all before you get trapped in that morass of family emotions and pain and just start thinking about escape. I felt it was sad, as I think Franzen did, that suicide wasn't an option for poor Al. But that's not the way it works for those too impaired to end their own suffering. But all of this sounds very serious. What I most enjoyed about this book was its cleverness and irony. Ann
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (10 of 17), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, January 18, 2003 04:27 PM As I said, I read this one over a year ago. Don't feel moved to read it again. But I could well have posted exactly what you did, Ann. The verbal wit and irony attracted me. The plot(s)were almost soap opera. I, too, was wrenched by the dementia sections. Gawd, what a quagmire that is. And what was with that turd stuff, anyway? I kept being reminded of the talking cigarette in Doonesbury. Ruth
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (11 of 17), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, January 18, 2003 05:00 PM Ruth, Regarding the terrible turd obsession - At one point in my life I worked with elderly people as an untrained and rather incompetent caseworker for county Social Services. We authorized Title XX services such as housekeeping and transportation, which were designed to keep low income old people in their homes. I was in my twenties at the time, and I do remember being amazed at how some of these people could not stop talking about their bowel problems. One lady in particular insisted on describing to me the actual shape of her movements. When that part of your body doesn't function right, maybe that's all you can think of. Maybe Al was obsessed with it because he was so humiliated by the necessity of wearing diapers. Perhaps for Franzen, the turds had a more symbolic meaning. :) Ann
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (12 of 17), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, January 18, 2003 08:51 PM I think the symbolism of the turds (wow, what a great title for a book, huh?) went deeper than just Al's dementia. I think it was all that control that he had maintained all those years leaping out and ambushing him. He seemed to think of sex and bodily functions as some kind of necessary evil, a total embarrassment for him. But his humanity (in the form of the turd) caught up with him. He finally lost it, the control, in more ways than one. Sherry
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (13 of 17), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, January 18, 2003 09:06 PM I kept thinking this episode was totally gratuitous, but that makes sense, Sherry. Ruth
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (14 of 17), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, January 19, 2003 01:24 AM This section may have had some point, but it went on way too long in my opinion. I read some interviews with Franzen on the internet and he is really enamored of the cruise section of the book, which I found boring - with the sole exception of the story of the mother whose daughter had been murdered by a psycho. That was truly touching. Ann
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (15 of 17), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, January 19, 2003 09:50 AM I agree with all of the above comments about the cruise section and the turd hallucinations. (Ruth, the similarity to the Doonesbury cigarette occurred to me too!) I was doing well with this book until then, but I lost interest so completely that I put the book aside for months. It's still sitting beside the bed and now I think I'll just skim through that part and get going on the rest. Lynn
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (16 of 17), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, January 19, 2003 09:57 AM Lynn, I think that's a good plan. The last part tells Denise's story, catches up with Chip in Lithuania (bet the Lithuanians are mad about that section), and then there is Enid's big Christmas and a conclusion which genuinely raps things up. It's well worth reading. Incidentally, Franzen's own father had Alzheimer's, which explains how he could describe the effects of dementia on the family so well. Ann
From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, January 19, 2003 09:25 PM Sherry and all, I had trouble with this book in the beginning for the same reasons that all of you mentioned. I couldn't stand any of the characters. The person I hated the most in the book was Caroline, Gary's wife. I hated the way that she manipulated the children to divide the family into "his team" and "her team". Gary was almost as maddening when he obsessed about getting Caroline to admit that she had hurt her back earlier, not when she ran to answer the phone. I felt some sympathy for Gary until that last section when he was so awful to his elderly parents. I think that I liked Denise the best of the whole family. Al even showed he wasn't such a bad guy when he had taken the blame for Denise's indiscretions, and he hadn't mentioned a thing to her or to the family. I am happy that I read this book, but I really don't want to read anything else by Franzen. I felt the same way after I finished A MAN IN FULL by Tom Wolfe. No more of Wolf for me. Get an editor!!! Jane
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, January 20, 2003 02:08 PM I'm home for MLK Day, sick with a cold and have been finishing reading this book since about 7:30 this morning (it's almost 2:00 PM now). Franzen almost lost me at all of the same places he almost lost all of you, but, beginning with The Generator section, I was hooked. And, I'm very glad that I finished and didn't miss the final sections. I also understand why Franzen was a little dismayed at being chosen as an Oprah pick. Can you imagine the questions that audience would have asked? I don't think it's at all like Oprah's usual choices. And, I should qualify here that I've liked a lot of them. As pessimistic a view of people as this is, I recognize all of them. They come close to being caricatures and he certainly gives us their most negative side, but these people, these conflicts are real. It reminded me of my realization years ago that all families are dysfunctional to some extent or another, that there are really no Norman Rockwell scenes. Enid and Alfred, with very little understanding of each other or of themselves, come together and try to produce that Rockwell ideal. I thought the final scene coming at Christmas was perfect. This excerpt in one of Alfred's sections gave me particular pause: The human species was given dominion over the earth and took the opportunity to exterminate other species and warm the atmosphere and generally ruin things in its own image, but it paid this price for its privileges: that the finite and specific animal body of this species contained a brain capable of conceiving the infinite and wishing to be infinite itself. There came a time, however, when death ceased to be the enforcer of finitude and began to look, instead like the last opportunity for radical transformation, the only plausible portal to the infinite. The human body and psyche seems to have such a will to go on. It was amazing to me that he fought the drowning on the cruise ship and yet it fit, in a much more dramatic way, with what I've experienced with my dad and my husband's parents. I wanted to applaud him when he finally quit eating. Barb
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (19 of 27), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, January 20, 2003 02:28 PM Barb, I agree with you; all of those people were recognizable to me - sometimes (disconcertingly) as different aspects of myself. Ann
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (20 of 27), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, January 20, 2003 05:06 PM I think so many people disliked this book (many from my in-person book group) because of that very recognition, Ann. People don't like being reminded of their oh, so obvious flaws. But they are there, and it really doesn't hurt once in a while to look at them. We might learn something. I was really proud of Chip in all this. He was the one who was really floundering, and who I think became a better person because of what he went through. You, see? I'm talking just like they're real people. They became real to me, and that's why I think the book is a success. Sherry
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (21 of 27), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Monday, January 20, 2003 08:20 PM Yes, Sherry, they did seem real. I agree that Chip seemed to redeem himself (or at least reinvent - correct - himself) by the end of the book. I was irritated with Denise because she was totally willing to allow her father to be the human guinea pig for obviously unproven medical procedures, so that his problem could be corrected. MAP
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (22 of 27), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, January 20, 2003 10:48 PM It's so easy to engage in magical thinking and to ignore the obvious when someone is really sick, especially when that someone has had as much significance in our lives as Alfred had in theirs, for better or worse. I think Denise just wanted to believe that something out there could make it all better. It was similar to Enid's ideas that if he would just think positively, follow doctor's orders and do his stretching exercises, everything would be fine. I thought that Franzen really caught the variety of reactions that siblings and the spouse have to a parent dying. There is often the one who starts looking at the value of everything and wants to take over, like Gary. And, then there's the one who wants to ignore everything, like Chip. Barb
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (23 of 27), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 07:52 AM I also think that Denise's reaction was colored by how she had been treated as a young girl. No one ever made her sit at the table for five hours. She was her parents' "correction." She just didn't understand the bitterness that Gary and Chip felt at the family situation. So of course she would jump at any chance to try to fix her father. His approval always meant so much to her. Was anyone else hyper-aware whenever Franzen used the word "correction"? Oftentimes (I wonder why), when people talk to me about this book, they get the name of it wrong -- "The Connections" or "The Collections" and I am adamant about setting them straight. "Corrections" are so important to the whole concept of the book, and I'm glad you brought it up, MAP. Sherry
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (24 of 27), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 06:18 PM I think Denise did change in the end as well, when she begged Chip to let her forgive his debt to her. And the change in her attitude towards her mum. I think she became more sympathetic because she was finally in the house and she could see that Al wasn't going to get any better and began to have some inkling of how difficult life was for Enid. I actually think Gary also got better at the end. He had this well of resentment which he'd kept hidden in him for so long that I think the final outburst just spewed out of him. He did fix the stool and the shower bar even though he was angry that he couldn't just relax for the holidays. He hid the shotgun shells even though he initially seemed too angry to care. I think Gary was in a cycle of anger and guilt. He would be angry with his parents for the situation they refused to get out of, and then guilty that he didn't help more and then back again to the anger. Isn't it ironic that Gary who had spent so much of his life trying not to be like his Dad actually turn out to be the most like him? At the end, when things were better, I laughed at how Gary and Enid kept needling each other about money. Like mother, like son. This book disturbed me when I'd finished it, because I could see just a little of myself in each of the characters. All the pettiness, meanness, selfishness in ourselves that we normally don't wish to believe exists in us is cruelly exposed through these characters. As some of you said earlier, all their actions were horrifyingly recognisable. Ee Lin
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (25 of 27), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 07:03 PM I read somewhere that the movie is being made but found nothing on the IMDB. So, have you all agreed on whom to cast for what role? pres I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don't give a damn.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (26 of 27), Read 11 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 07:20 PM Sherry, I was also uncommonly aware each time Franzen used the word "correction". Perhaps my problem with Denise is this: the unveiling of the new procedure was so clearly a multi-media staged event, all too common in the prescription drug industry. Maybe I've spent too much time in health care and I've become cynical about such things. But I was surprised that Denise fell for the PR hype hook, line, and sinker. Sure, everyone is desperate to find a cure for their loved ones' illnesses, but somehow Denise didn't seem like the type to fall for all that PR. Now Chip is another matter. How about his trip to Lithuania? That whole episode was pretty funny, with very dark humor. Pres, how about Kevin Spacey as Gary? MAP
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, January 23, 2003 07:49 AM Since I'm not in the health care industry, the PR didn't strike me as manipulative as it did you. What I was most struck by, was the pittance of $5000 that they were willing to give for the patent. Is it true that patent infringement is the norm is such cases? How sad. I'm listening now to Denise's story. Most people seem to like the book from here on, and I have a feeling I know why. There are likeable characters! Those two little girls of Robin's are wonderful, and Robin is kind of wonderful, too. Even though she's neurotic, her neuroses lead her to do kind things -- run the garden, help poor kids. She's an interesting character. All that money, and still wearing big 80's glasses. The comparison between Albert's $5000 from the drug company and Brian's $19.5 million from the W___ company (or was it M___?) has to be on purpose. Albert gets practically nothing for a discovery that could be a medical breakthrough, and Brian gets millions for music noodling software. Just goes to show what is valued in our society. Sherry
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, January 23, 2003 01:05 PM I have been sneaking peeks at the discussion here while trying to finish "The Corrections," which I did yesterday. I probably would not have hung in without the encouragement of the comments here, and I am glad that I did. I'd earlier asked if any of the characters become likeable in the course of the book, and I agree that the final sections make most of them, if not entirely likeable, then at least sympathetic. Chip became my favorite character, both because I thought the Lithuania sections were the funniest in the book (his Lithuanian mentor--forgot his name just now--may be my 2nd favorite) and because I loved the way Chip changed--became a grown-up--in the final section of the book. On the other hand, I lost sympathy for Gary as the book went on. To the end, Caroline remained the most horrible character--manipulative the whole way through. And battling in a real "take no prisoners" manner. (She couldn't let Enid enjoy a short visit with even one grandchild? What a creep!) Of course, we do not ever see the story from her perspective, or get any insight into why she is the way she is. But that's ok, I almost enjoyed having one unadulterated "villain"! I love playing the "whom would you cast" game. Kevin Spacey is a real favorite of mine. I'm thinking of Joanne Woodward for Enid (maybe because of her role in "Mr. & Mrs. Bridge"?). Mary Ellen
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (29 of 42), Read 40 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, January 23, 2003 09:22 PM Just how many kinds of corrections were there? I remember that corrections were made to the maps in the railroad surveying office. Gary was trying to correct Caroline's story of things. There were market corrections. I know that I am missing many more. Jane
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (30 of 42), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, January 23, 2003 09:52 PM Well, one big one was Correct-All, to correct your brain. Then Mexican A, or Aslan corrected your outlook and mood. Mary Ellen, I had the same idea as you for Enid, and I would take it a step further and have Paul Newman play Alfred (he was supposed to be handsome, right?) I think Sela Ward would make a good Denise, and I haven't decided about Chip. Sherry
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (31 of 42), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Friday, January 24, 2003 11:28 AM I recall the words "correct" and "correction" popping up frequently (always highlighted in my mind). Now I can't remember too many incidents. I think Gary at one point thought of his life as the anti-Al life, correcting his father's behavior (ironic, as noted before, that he became the bully he despised, at least in his parents house; in his own home, he was spineless!) But it came up in a lot of mundane circumstances, too. I'm almost embarrassed to ask this question, but did any of you think this was a GREAT book? It won the National Book Award, or was a finalist, right? I remember critics loving the book, and I totally missed the profundity. (I get caught up in a story and am too lazy, usually, to think about "great ideas." And I know nothing about Schopenauer!) Missing the great ideas, I found this a so-so book, in need of editing (the fecal hallucination passages, for starters--don't need that much space to get across the idea that for most people, let alone a control freak like Al, incontinence is a nightmare!--so to me, this read like a SNL skit gone bad, and gone way too long!) and I did not think the writing itself was particularly elegant. In light of the critical acclaim, though, I figure I am really missing out here, and hoping for enlightenment! Mary Ellen
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (32 of 42), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, January 24, 2003 11:47 AM I pretty much agree with you, Mary Ellen. I was taken by some of his clever phrasing and irony, but on the whole, the book didn't strike me as worthy of all the praise it got. Not a bad book. Just not as good as the hoopla. Not worth a reread for this discussion. Ruth
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (33 of 42), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, January 24, 2003 04:36 PM This book seemed to me trivial and serious at the same time. The opening paragraph with its many verb less sentences gave me a sense of foreboding but then I found the puns and word play at odds with that. Here are some examples: - Enid smells fish on Chip's clothes. - His friend urges Chip to go to Silicon Valley. - The law firm Bragg, Knuter and Speigh. - The film producer Eden Procuro. - Deepmire Country Club - Cafe Louche. "Louche" in French means suspect, fishy as well as a ladle. - Gitane Misevicius which I see as "misogynist vicious." - The doctor on the cruise ship Mather Hibbard who is decribed as looking like John Travolta although the actor's name is never mentioned. This leads to L. Ron Hubbard which draws a connection between drugs and religion. All this was quite at odds with the seriousness of the topics on which this book touches: - Alzheimer's disease - Illegal and prescription drugs - Funding of medical research - Relationship of World Bank and American business and their resposibility for economic problems in developing countries. I think that this book is Franzen's criticism of a sick culture (Chip's words p.45). The values of integrity and honor in Al were taken as yet another symptom of dementia by Gary. So foreign were those values and his father to him that Gary never felt that his father could have good reason for his actions. By the same token we are shown how corporations have contributed to the cynicism which has led to the erosion of those values. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (34 of 42), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, January 24, 2003 04:39 PM I thought it was an uneven book which keeps it from being great. Many of the characterizations were great, but skirted just slightly too close to caricature for my taste. However, the insights into human nature and interaction were inspired enough that I would recommend this book to anyone with a little patience. I didn't realize that the reviews had been that universally good. My son described it as being "ubiquitous" lately. The comment about Caroline as villain reminded me of the manipulations that she played with her sons against Gary. It was one of those insights into human nature that I thought was truly outstanding. As a parent, I've fought the temptation to do this kind of thing to a lesser degree. Caroline felt to me like a personal painting of warning. Barb
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (35 of 42), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Peggy Ramsey ashputtle@comcast.com Date: Saturday, January 25, 2003 02:31 PM I'm actually relieved to have finished the book, and doubly-relieved to read this discussion and find out I'm not alone in my reaction to this book. I think that if I hadn't been sick this week, I probably would not have wrestled my way through it. And maybe it's for the reasons someone suggested above - the characters are maybe just a little too real - and the theme of "dysfunction breeds dysfunction breeds dysfunction" was depressing. Tell me something I didn't know. Al and Enid apparently live in my grandparent's old house. I was having flash-backs in the scene where Denise is cleaning off the shelves in the basement. And yes, Caroline is definitely the character most in need beating with a whiffle bat*. Gary wasn't a particularly sympathetic character, but I still couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Peggy *A friend and I recently decided that the whiffle bat would be a perfect office accessory - for those times when you desperately need to take out some frustrations on someone without actually hurting him/her.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (36 of 42), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, January 25, 2003 02:36 PM You're way too kind about Caroline. I would have used a mace, and used the whiffle bat on Gary. I felt sorry for him, too, but his not helping his old dad out of the tub made me furious. (God, I take my reading way too seriously.) Sherry
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (37 of 42), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, January 25, 2003 02:50 PM Oh my God, Peggy, I forgot about the cleaning out the shelves section. Wasn't that incredibly real? Barb
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (38 of 42), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: David Doorley ozzieink@aol.com Date: Saturday, January 25, 2003 03:23 PM Hi all, I'm a new member here but I'm jumping right in. I read The Corrections when it first came out and could not put it down. I love books about dysfunctional families, especially families that are crazier than mine. So this was a perfect match. I'm leading the discussion for this book in May, but since you're discussing it now, I'll probably begin rereading it and stopping in now and then. From my impressions of awhile back: I found so many sections to be laugh-out-loud funny and others that were very touching -- and sometimes both together. I'm glad I found this discussion because I can already tell that I better adjust my expectations for my own book group. I can already tell that the group will be split on the book, just like here.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (39 of 42), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, January 25, 2003 03:47 PM Welcome, David! Jumping right in is definitely the best approach. I hope you'll be joining us for a lot of the other discussions too. What were your favorite sections of the book? Did you think it could've used a bit of editing? Or, did you think that every bit of is essential? Also, if you feel like it, go up to the Welcome to Webboard topic and tell us some more about yourself! Barb
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (40 of 42), Read 12 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 12:21 AM David, Welcome to Constant Reader! We love to have new participants. I will be curious to hear how your group liked The Corrections. I'm afraid my in person book club would not be ambitious enough to try it. Like you, I enjoyed Franzen's sense of humor. Here's one line that made me laugh out loud. Denise has decided to drop out of college: " She also resented that the college was making her feel guilty about her privileges while granting certain lucky identity groups plenary indulgences from guilt." (Maybe you have to have had a Catholic childhood to appreciate that one - a plenary indulgence wipes out all the temporal punishment you have accrued for your sins). Or here's another one from Denise, when she writes to Chip about her plans to let her parents stay with her while her Dad tries the drug treatment: "Helpfully, my life is in ruins, so it's easy to make myself available." But, as you said, there are also very poignant parts. I was particularly touched by Sylvia, whose daughter was murdered by someone she tried to help and whose husband finally decided that the only way he could deal with the pain was to pretend she had not been murdered. In partial defense of Caroline, didn't she have absolutely dreadful parents? Does anyone remember the details? Also, I could almost feel sorry for Gary. Not only do all the readers feel he is the least likable sibling, so did his own father.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (41 of 42), Read 5 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 08:10 AM David, let me add my welcome. We love to see new people posting. I'm doing a re-read by listening to the audiotape. It's interesting how different things strike you funny when you hear it as opposed to when you read it. When I read the fish in the pants scene, I thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever read, but when I listened to it, it was only mildly amusing. Then the part when Gary was surfing the net for pornography didn't seem all that funny when I read it, but I was cackling with laughter when I heard it. It could, of course, have been my mood. I just couldn't put this book down, and didn't have any trouble, as some people did, getting through it. It's funny how some books strike such different chords in people. Sherry
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 10:12 AM Sherry, The fish in the pants scene bored the heck out of me, although other parts of the book really cracked me up. My library has a copy of the unabridged version of this book. I think I'll request it when I'm done with my current audio books - Barbara Pym's Quartet in Autumn and Conroy's The Great Santini. Ann
Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 11:40 AM Ann, is your The Great Santini read by Frank Mueller? I listened to everything of Conroy's on Recorded Books one year and I think they were all read by Mueller who is one of my favorites. Barb
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (44 of 59), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 01:05 PM Despite my less than enthusiastic comments about this book, I must say I had no trouble whatsoever in reading it. Plowed right through full speed ahead. (OTOH, I didn't make it past the first tape of The Great Santini.) Ruth
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (45 of 59), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 02:15 PM Barb, No, it's read by David Hilder. I haven't started it yet. I'm just finishing up Pym's Quartet in Autumn, about 4 elderly people who lead such desolate lives it seems like it would be kinder just to shoot them. Ann
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (46 of 59), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 02:19 PM I agree that the fish in Chip's pants was boring but I thought that calling the store "The Nightmare of Consumption" was another way that Franzen was criticizing the current state of American culture. That and the fact that the coffee bar showed its companies profits continuously updated. I liked this more than I expected to. Actually, I was expecting to hate this book but I can't. I agree with the edits proposed but I think that Franzen did a good job of weaving together as seamlessly as he did so many personal, family, social and global elements that I have to admire him. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (47 of 59), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 04:43 PM I loved that store, Dean. Again, it came close to caricature, but just managed to skirt it. It was one of those hilarious moments for me. Barb
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (48 of 59), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 04:45 PM Oh my gosh, Ann, I don't think I'll be reading Quartet in Autumn anytime soon. Barb
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (49 of 59), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 05:16 PM Barbara, "caricature" is a good description but more than that, I saw the store and the whole book as a biting satire of current American culture and values. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (50 of 59), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, January 26, 2003 07:52 PM Barb, I'm listening to audio books while I walk outside (which takes determination this winter) and do housework (which I detest). I finished the Pym book, which had a wonderful reader and was at least thought provoking. The reader for the Great Santini is very mediocre. It makes a big difference. My apologies for this interruption of The Corrections thread. Ann
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (51 of 59), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 07:15 AM Dean, I think you're quite right that The Corrections is an indictment of so many of the things that make up Our American Life. Franzen reminds me of DeLillo in that regard. Sherry
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (52 of 59), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 08:39 AM Yes, Sherry, I was reminded of "White Noise" the only DeLilo book which I have read. "White Noise" seemed to me to deal with more philosophical ideas death, the individual vs. society. "The Corrections" seemed to me to deal with much more practical concerns and values. It seemed to have a darker undertone. The sound of that alarm bell from the first paragraph stayed with me through the whole book. I got the feeling that Franzen himself wants this book to be the alarm. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (53 of 59), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 01:34 PM The first 2 paragraphs of an article in yesterday's Chicago Trib Books section are worth repeating here: 2 Novels Plumb the Sadness of Nostalgia by John Freeman Were it not for the centripetal tug of nostalgia, literature would not exist. Try to imagine Odysseus just moving on with his life after the war, or Chip Lambert from Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" blithely washing his hands of life in St. Jude, and you'll see where I'm going with this. Nostalgia helps us judge the distance we've traveled, but it creates that distance too. The longer we stay away from home or a place of formative years, the more imagination steps in to fill in the blanks of memory. Returning is to court the angst of realizing life moves on, whether you're there or not. These paragraphs caught my attention, mainly because Chip is coupled with Odesseus, which got me thinking that I had been discounting Chip as a character. Now I'm thinking quite differently about him. BTW, it's worth repeating what everyone knows: St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes. MAP
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (54 of 59), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 02:30 PM Hopeless causes need a patron saint? pres "I am calm. I'm just upset."
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (55 of 59), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 02:37 PM Thank you for the quote, MAP. I was particularly taken with "the more imagination steps in to fill in the blanks of memory." Too true, and what happens to us when we no longer trust our memory - we trust our imaginations ? Well, why not? We're busy trusting others' imaginations 90% of the time. pres "I am calm. I'm just upset."
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (56 of 59), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 02:38 PM MAP -- you and St. Jude have convinced me I need to pick up another copy of this and read it now rather than waiting till I am back on the same continent with my first unopened copy! I liked the quotes you posted here -- and something about them and your comments just tipped the scale for me. I hear that question, Pres, do I ever hear that question --{G}-- but there are saints for everything, you know! I'm thinking St. Jude must be my patron saint all things considered so maybe I should look for a prayer to St. Jude and get busy! Dottie "I don't know how I'll feel tomorrow, tomorrow, I don't know what I'll say Tomorrow, tomorrow is a different day. .... I try to believe you, not today." Avril Lavigne, lyric from Tomorrow
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (57 of 59), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 04:33 PM MAP, thanks for the quote and for mentioning St. Jude's guardianship. I'm sure that I had heard it before but it hadn't come to mind. Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (58 of 59), Read 9 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 10:59 PM Glad to oblige. MAP
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 07:01 AM MAP, thanks for that quotation. It really gives you something to think about. Nostalgia is a funny thing. It's kind of a homesickness for the past. Have you ever been homesick for places you've never been? Or pasts you've never had? I know I have. Maybe that's why I like to read so much. I like to indulge in my (and other people's) nostalgia. Sherry
From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 01:27 PM Some interesting musings on nostalgia! As for nostalgia for a place/time where we've never been, I think all nostalgia has something of that quality, as it's usually based on an idealized vision of the past, which seems so golden in contrast with the messy reality of our present. However, reading can bring me to feel nostalgia for eras & places that were otherwise unknown to me. I would not have seen Chip as an Odysseus because Chip seemed so hapless for most of the book, without any idea of where he wanted to go. Odysseus may have gotten side-tracked, but he always had his end in view: home. Chip returned to St. Jude once his other options had played themselves out. I guess it was nostalgia--a memory of a place, for all its problems, where no one was threatened to shoot him--that drove him there. Of course, Chip did have his wily moments, too, so maybe there was more of Odysseus in him than I first thought. (The Odysseus posts reminded me of 2 other Odyssey-inspired bits of contemporary fiction: "Cold Mountain" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" both of which I loved!) As for St. Jude: he is a very popular saint, particularly because of the hopeless cause angle (don't we all have one or two?). So, Dottie, if you are looking for a St. Jude prayer, they are easy to find! :) As to the fictional St. Jude: is Franzen from St. Louis? When Denise was eating with Doug A. at the burger place in the rough neighborhood, I said to myself, "I've been there, in St. Louis! The place has GREAT ice cream, and a friend took me there about a year ago. I suppose many cities have similar set-ups, but it did make me wonder if Franzen had St. Louis in mind in creating his generic Midwestern city. Mary Ellen
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (61 of 76), Read 62 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 02:14 PM Good catch, Mary Ellen.Franzen grew up in a suburb of St. Louis according to the introduction of an interesting interview with him at http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/interviews/int2001-10-03.htm.
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (62 of 76), Read 62 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 02:28 PM Mary Ellen, did you mention this place when you first dropped in here? This sounds familiar and my response -- well, it seems like you and I had this conversation once before. {G} St. Louis had the best ice-cream place I've ever seen or tasted -- Cyrano's -- it was in the gaslight district and I think at the time it was in the early rehab days for the area (sometime in the mid to late 60's) but won't swear to that. As I said -- I gotta get a copy of this book and read it now not wait another month. Maybe when I'm out running errands this week, I can work in another stop at The Bookman. Another thing -- you are so right -- out there in the ether is so much stuff on Catholicism, The Rosary and all the Saints and the prayers related to them that one could read nearly forever -- same holds true for Protestants in many forms. {G} I was only half serious about looking for a St. Jude prayer but I have no doubt what-so-ever that I'd find plenty of info should I run a search. Dottie
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (63 of 76), Read 59 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 04:38 PM Ann, I was unable to find the Atlantic article from the site you posted which I would love to read. Finished THE CORRECTIONS today. Comments to come. Robt
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (64 of 76), Read 56 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Ellen Burns smeburns@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 05:39 PM Ann, thanks for the link. I enjoyed the interview very much. I am intrigued by Franzen's statement that Enid is the hero of the book, and that her ability to hope is her most positive quality. He further says that (I'm paraphrasing here) when you are depicting a world in which difficulties are inevitable, you need to have a sense of hope as well, and that an element of hope is true to his experience of life. That statement has made me think I completely misinterpreted the tone of the book. I imagined an ironic distance between Franzen/the omniscient narrator and Enid's statement. Dottie: I don't think I mentioned the St. Louis ice cream/burger place before, but am delighted to find someone else who thinks their ice cream is better than their frozen custard! (As to the St. Jude prayers: I am Catholic, and, on more than a few occasions, I have found more hand-copied prayers to St. Jude left behind by devotees, to attract people like me to their favorite saint!) Mary Ellen
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (65 of 76), Read 55 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 06:20 PM I found the Franzen Atlantic article, Ann. Thanks. I really enjoyed it. Like Dean, I took THE CORRECTIONS to be “a biting satire of current American culture and values.” I seem to remember Franzen saying something about the incongruity of this novel being an Oprah pick; and I can see his discomfort in utilizing an American mainstream marketing strategy to promote something which is critical of that very thing (Corecktall, etc.) But I also saw the “Chip” in Franzen with how he handled the Oprah Book Club. It was embarrassing, backfiring, foot shooting and yet had a good point to it. Altogether Franzian. Chip seemed to be most like Franzen himself: a writer, highly gifted and alternately successful/unsuccessful in his life. And just the way Chip was written I felt he had the author’s sympathy despite Chip’s outrageous transgressions and self defeats. Chip was the prodigal son and Gary the other son who did every thing the right way and yet the father loved the prodigal. I’ll identify with the creative one anyway no matter how idiotic his/her life becomes; that’s how much I love originality. And, of course, the idiocy does ring a familiar bell. What I love about this novel is the way Franzen captures the psychological flavor of our culture. He’s really got an eye for it in a thousand diverse snippets of action and conversation. What an ear for dialogue and voice. I began to hear the characters speak, especially Enid. Even the minor ones: like students at line in the Lithuanian airport or the elderly gay teacher dying of cancer. Also impressive are his satirical gifts. Lithuania.com and the Corecktall promotional meeting and the doctor on the cruise are just hilarious and disturbing. There was so much recognition in this novel for me that it was spooky. There are three grown siblings in my family who celebrated Christmas together at my aging parents’ home last month with bursts of bizarre and banal behavior, looped together with love, that made the last part of this novel feel like a parallel universe. There were definitely too many words. This is an author who takes the directive “be specific” to a new extreme. I don’t need to know the product labels of all the different cardboard boxes that Alfred and Enid store their Christmas stuff in, and that is just a drop in the bucket. And I had trouble assimilating Robin’s full family history before I knew who she was. A number of times I got bogged down and set the novel aside. That may be partly my fault; it happens to me now and then even with great novels. But, by the conclusion, I was very glad to have read this one. Robt
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (66 of 76), Read 55 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 06:43 PM To borrow a phrase from Alice -- curiouser and curiouser -- can't wait. Mary Ellen -- so the place you went was actually Cyrano's? Now that is pretty interesting to know it still exists. If it is indeed the same spot, the ice cream was the main event when they first came into existence and they had an interesting array of desserts and drinks utilizing the ice cream. We went there with a cousin expressly for dessert late one evening just ahead of their dinner crowd. Okay -- enough said -- sorry to sidetrack things here. I'll jump back in once I've read well into the book. Dottie -- who finally found her way out of Wonderland and The Looking Glass House "Speak when you're spoken to!" the Queen sharply interrupted her. ... the Red Queen said to Alice. "Always speak the truth -- think before you speak -- and write it down afterwards."
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (67 of 76), Read 50 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 08:10 PM The writers on this thread have mostly complained of the over-writing, the disagreeableness of the characters, the difficulty of getting into or continuing the book. And practically everyone says, in the end, they are glad they read it, that they found, I assume, profound echoes of things they knew were true. QUESTION: What made you really LIKE the book? pres "I am calm. I'm just upset."
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (68 of 76), Read 51 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 08:41 PM Pres, The wit, and the parts that rang so true. It was very scary when I recognized traces of Enid in my own character, but enlightening as well. Robt, great comments. I especially enjoyed your analogy to the Prodigal son - so true, and yet I hadn't looked at it that way until you brought it up. Ann
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (69 of 76), Read 51 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 09:02 PM Mary Ellen, Yes, Enid is definitely the hero. I mentioned earlier the book's last sentence, which sold me on that fact. If someone can post it here, I would be most grateful. MAP
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (70 of 76), Read 44 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 09:59 PM MAP, "She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life." I personally liked a sentence a few lines earlier. Enid has been taking care of Alfred in the nursing home. "He moved for nothing and responded to nothing except to shake his head emphatically, once if Enid tried to put an ice chip in his mouth. The one thing he never forgot was to refuse. All of her correction had been for naught. He was as stubborn as the day she'd met him." Robt, I can't agree that Chip was a creative writer. That screenplay that he wrote that concentrated on breasts was absolute crap. Some one mentioned that Chip's story reminded him/her of Delillo. I thought of BLUE ANGEL by Francine Prose. Here is another college professor who throws away his career for a fun time with a student. Jane
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (71 of 76), Read 45 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 10:12 PM Yes, but just like in Blue Angel the student was the aggressor. Ann
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (72 of 76), Read 46 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 10:45 PM Jane, Yes, Chip’s screenplay was hilariously awful. His creative writing abilities became evident with his Lithuania.com website and I think he was onto something when he realized that satire was his forte: “make it ridiculous.” Given how bright he was in the classroom together with his inherent distrust and cynicism of our culture and the outrageousness of his personal experiences, I had the feeling that he would eventually come up with a good movie script. Robt
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (73 of 76), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 11:51 AM Pres, Some more reasons why I liked THE CORRECTIONS. One of the things I had read about Franzen was his desire to speak to our society and times in a significant manner, to make a difference, to illuminate, to criticize, to “correct,” if you will. Such as correct the thinking and perceptions of readers about issues that are transparent to us because of their cultural pervasiveness. I think of Chip and his efforts to do this with his students. That was another aspect of Chip that felt like the author speaking, although I also thought Franzen was disillusioned with the academic approach as well. Franzen wrote an article in Harper’s (1996) questioning whether or not this was even possible anymore. His first two novels had attempted to take on “big” themes but nobody much read his books. So, he wondered, what’s the point? Where’s the influence? Where I think Franzen is successful in opening social awareness in his readership—whether that be an underscoring of existing awareness, a reminder, or an actual planting of new ideas and connections—is through his satire. In the Atlantic interview Franzen states that humor is very important in the novel and it was an essential element which kept me reading. Marketing is a target of Franzen’s ire. It is Chip’s beef (excuse the unintended wordplay) in his class that marketing’s intention is not just to sell but to deceive and so let’s at least be on the alert or aware of it when that is the case. He loathes a society of lemming dupes. The novel then goes on to offer hilarious examples of all-too-recognizable marketing deceptions. The section where Gary and Denise go to the Axon Corporation’s promotion of Corecktall is successful satire. The carefully orchestrated message to the potential investors is that Axon has developed a mental cure all, which—they hope to hide—would be an ethical nightmare if used for its intended purpose; but so what, it will make a fortune. The sarcastic response of the promoters to the human rights challengers had me laughing out loud because it had the bull market mentality down to a T. And, of course, Gary is desperate to get stock and eventually loses his investment from the perfectly legal scam. The novel suggests to me that deceptive marketing practices bear significant responsibly for stock market inflation and the subsequent serious stock market correction and huge loss of investments that has occurred since the turn of the millennium. Chip’s Lithuania.com scam satirizes the marriage of marketing and politics, something I’m increasingly aware of as I’m being sold a war based on those ever dependable marketing trumps of greed and fear (oil and terrorism,) the current carrot and stick of lemmingland. And Enid’s visit to the doctor on the luxury cruise satirizes the ever thinning line between selling legal and illegal addictive psychotropic drugs. Chip’s Mexican A and Enid’s Aslan are the same fix, er, correction. As Franzen alludes to in the Atlantic interview, one of the things a novel can successfully do is address the social by way of the personal. He achieves this with a character driven story, people that are almost alive as Sherry says, whose conundrums reveal our collective myopia and the various lenses we wear to correct it. Robt
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (74 of 76), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 12:13 PM ROBERT, thanks for a very enlightening and interesting explanation. I much appreciate the time and attention you put into putting the pieces together. (My very own cliché.) pres "I am calm. I'm just upset."
Topic: The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen (75 of 76), Read 43 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 06:11 PM Robert, you have a gift for analyzing some very slippery ideas and putting words to them. I had similar feelings as you did about the book, but I could never articulate it to myself, let alone, explain it as well as you did. In other words: What you said. Sherry
From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 09:25 PM Robt, you have put your points so eloquently. I loved that you wove the phrase "stock market correction" into you points, because that's exactly the euphemism we are now given as to why our retirement savings have vanished. As an aside, a friend once purchased an invisible fence - one of those devices that delivers a shock to your pet if he tries to leave the yard. My friend told me that the salesman called that shock "a correction". It would be a fun exercise to actually count all the corrections in this book, in every sense of the word. I'm sure someone, somewhere will do that. MAP

 
 
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