Sunday, February 13, 2011

03 The Corrections Jonathan Franzen

Meet the Lamberts, and go home for Christmas this year.

Chip - Golden boy, prick of a brother, and a pedophile

Denise - Home-wrecker, chef, sexual deviant

Gary - Family man + hater of his family = depression

Enid - Oppressed Midwestern wife, just wants one more Christmas in St. Jude

Alfred - Pater familias, dementia stricken, hero

I know that Mr. Chilton has read, reviewed and dismissed this novel. I have found it worthy, and I look forward to reading the next book with which Chris finds fault. Franzen has a style that isn’t his alone, but he has mastered it. I’m not a lover of the sentence. And I don’t like reading authors that put massive amounts of importance on each sentence they write. Franzen lets his prose flow like the true storyteller he is. The dialogue is real and believable. Each of the Lambert’s has their novella woven together in a page-turning family drama. Franzen makes the reader root for each of them, but all of them are less than admirable characters. I hope to read Freedom this year. What follows requires a spoiler alert, but seeing as most have already read it…

Chip is considered a wise, focused, and free child that was born during the good times of the Lambert history. In reality he is a failure. He can’t have a healthy relationship, he can’t keep a job, and he’s writing a screenplay that will forever be rejected due to his motivation for writing it: revenge. The entire family respects him though, and this affords him endless love and admiration. He accomplishes this by never telling them the truth, but even if he tried to tell the truth the parents and siblings would find a way to turn his admission into a positive. I love Chipper, he is doomed, but there is hope for that screenplay after all.
Denise is the confused youngest child and only daughter. She makes poor sexual decisions throughout her story and each ruins someone’s life. Her virginity is taken by an older, married man that is a subordinate to her father at work. Her first marriage springs from a work relationship but ends in lesbian exploration. And her ultimate relationship in the story consists of a heterosexual married couple; she fucks them both. Denise does have a conscious, and I love Denise, but she is a home-wrecker and disappointment to all she touches. A damn fine chef, and there is always a need for sustenance.

Gary is my least favorite of the five. All he loves becomes all he hates. He is spiteful and not the least bit redeeming. His depression affects his marriage and relationship with two of his three boys. An effort to appease his mother by showing up for Christmas only results in his judgment of the status of her existence and his father's decline.

Enid is taking care of Alfred. She hates her responsibility and needs help. Her lack of culture is masked by a love of Europe, but she only loves what she cannot have and there is little optimism for how her life will turn out. She sees her family creating their own lives as a sign to make one last effort at a family Christmas, a holiday that for her is a symbol of happiness from a time she wishes she could return.
Alfred is a hero. He is losing his mind to Alzheimer’s, but he takes care throughout his life to do the right thing. His depression comes from his inability to do things for himself. Early in life he finds release by experimenting in his basement. Late in life he finds freedom by napping in a chair. His quiet sadness is a hallmark of his generation. Never complain. Always support. He is my own grandfather and father wrapped in one.


Christopher said...

Hey now. I said I liked this book.

Christopher said...

P.S. I added a tag for you.

Brent Waggoner said...

I love The Corrections, but saying Franzen doesn't care about his sentences seems kind of silly. He's heavily influenced by DeLillo, who might love his sentences more than he loves a couple of his children.

lawnwrangler said...

Chris-Calling a book boring suggests you like it? I need to get acquainted with this blog lifestyle probably. And the tag? you busting balls?

Brent-Agreed on DeLillo, it's a good sentence or no sentence at all. But I feel Franzen allows his prose more...(wait for it)...Freedom.
Anybody read that yet?

Christopher said...

Actual quote from the review: "I liked The Corrections..."

lawnwrangler said...

and continues, "but I didn't really love it."

i read your review. and I'm busting balls quite a bit. i enjoy your opinions and writing. i like that we have nothing in common, 'cept maybe a shared love of lit.

i'll be less judgmental in the future, but you know you love it.

going out of town this break?

Christopher said...

Yessir. I'm going to the Outer Banks for a week.

Anyway, I did like it, but I didn't love it. I wouldn't call it boring without qualification; what I said was that it was boring on the surface--that it deals with sort of tedious subject matter. I wasn't trying to find fault then; I don't mind boring, and in fact I think it makes some of the more odd parts, like Chip's adventures in Europe and, I think, some confession on their cruise ship about a murder, stand out. Forgive me for not recalling the details.

P.S. You're going to really love/hate my next review.

Brent Waggoner said...

LW: I edited your post because something was screwing with the blog format. I can see that about freedom--the concept, not the book; DeLillo is a great writer but his stuff can see a little, uh, airless at times. Still love him though.

Haven't read Freedom yet but I'm going to. Just have to wait for it to pop up in the queue.