The corrections

by Jonathan Franzen

Paper Book, 2001

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

Description

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have flown the family nest to live their own lives. Desperate for some pleasure, Enid has set her heart on bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

Media reviews

Franzen’s brilliant achievement is that he creates a set of stereotypical characters and then opens the door and allows us see, in suspenseful, humorous, mesmerizing detail, their defining moments. What was once a silhouette becomes three-dimensional. The complexity becomes a dim mirror of our own complex interiority—writ large, the way we like it writ, because then we can’t help but see ourselves in it.
7 more
Hvis du skal ta med deg en eneste roman på sommerferie, bør det bli Jonathan Franzens "Korrigeringer". Du kan ikke gjøre noe bedre kjøp akkurat nå. Men romanen gjør deg ikke dermed til en lykkelig konsument, mener Tom Egil Hverven.
De Morgen
'Met voorsprong het beste boek dat ik in jaren gelezen heb. Het enige slechte is dat het jammer genoeg na 502 pagina's ophoudt.'
NRC Handelsblad
'De correcties is een zeldzaamheid: een boek dat hoog inzet, stilistisch verbluft en niet kan worden weggelegd tot het is uitgelezen.'
Jyllands-Posten
Fremragende amerikansk roman minder os om hvor nøjsomme vi i grunden er herhjemme. Litterært set.
Information
Vel nok den bedste amerikanske roman siden Underverden.
Weekendavisen
En fremragende roman har ramt Danmark.
Politiken
Denne store og sprogligt uhyre veloplagte amerikanske samtidsroman har det hele og lidt til.

User reviews

LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I suppose it's a reflection of my bourgeois middlebrow tastes that I didn't just hate this book but thought it badly written--Pulitzer Prize Finalist or not. It's one of those novels with an omniscient narrative with lots of Modernist Stylistic Touches that Examines The Human Condition(tm)--in other words a pretentious, depressing work with unlikeable characters and turgid prose. The kind of book where paragraphs can go on for more than a page and single sentences, kept aloft with slashes, parenthesis, colons and semi-colons almost as long. (See, page 11, 17.) One with irritating affectations like referring to a fictitious school as "D-- College." (God, just make up a name already.)

Every once in a while I did think there were flashes of brilliance (which is why it gets more than half a star). Such as how in Part One, Enid and Alfred, an elderly Midwestern couple, are characterized through their possessions. Or in Part Two how their son Chip translates the subtext of his mother's quizzing of his girlfriend.

However, not even the satiric tones could make Chip's self-absorbed academic mental masturbation bearable--maybe Franzen did that too well--I had flashbacks to the worst of my politically correct college professors. Franzen's depiction of Yuppiehood in New York City wasn't any more appealing. (And I say that as a proud native New Yorker who usually loves to see my city depicted.) I lasted till the end of the second part at page 134 because I wanted to give such a raved-about book a fair shot. By then I knew there was no way I was going to last all the way to the end at page 566 without taking it out on some innocent bystander.
… (more)
LibraryThing member MeganGrace
I should never have read this book in the days before Thanksgiving. I can't decide whether I should fake the flu and hide under my covers or go to dinner to give thanks that my family isn't really that bad.

This book is fascinating. It's much more character driven than plot driven, but there's still plenty going on. Franzen divides his novel about a family of five, the Lamberts, into long sections about each family member. I was disappointed to see each part end, but quickly drawn into each new section. I didn't like all of the characters, but I felt like I genuinely understood and even related to them all. They're brilliantly presented.

Franzen's writing is fantastic too. He has some fantastic "turns of phrase" but it never feels gimmicky or heavy handed. He seamlessly moves between present time and some prior experience for the character on whom he's focusing. In different sections, Franzen makes the reader feel the chaos of a house with three boys, the quiet desperation of of being entangled in an adulterous affair, the terror of descending into mental illness, and the suffocating nature of returning to your childhood home as an adult.

I need some time to recover before I read it again, but I definitely will. This one is a keeper.
… (more)
LibraryThing member dczapka
The Corrections is easily one of the most frustrating novels I have ever read, but not for the reasons one might expect. Jonathan Franzen has crafted a marvelous family epic, but one that is horrifically depressing and tragic, a train wreck-like read that you want to turn away from but are too engrossed to ignore.

The story revolves around the assorted histories of the five members of the Lambert family. Alfred, the Parkinson's-riddled patriarch, and Enid, his long-suffering wife, live in the midwest while their three grown children make lives for themselves in the Northeast. Gary, a Philadelphia banker, refuses to admit to the depression from which he clearly suffers; Chip has lost his cushy academic job and is struggling to make ends meet as a failing screenwriter; and Denise is a chef whose voracious sexual appetite threatens her livelihood.

During the course of the novel, all five characters make disastrous choices based on what they think is the change, or correction, they feel their lives need. Though the plots are often dangerously close to spiraling out of control amidst all this impending doom -- Chip's story, especially, feels almost too ridiculous to be believable -- Franzen handles them all carefully and draws the reader by developing his characters extremely deeply. It is the strong characterization of the five Lamberts that lets him get away with the extremely lengthy digressions and backstories he employs en route to his ultimate resolution.

The flip side, as I've already mentioned, is that as enthralling as the novel is, it becomes increasingly morose by increasingly severe turns. Gary's breakdown, for instance, is rather easily portended though still touching, but Denise's downfall is so unexpectedly rapid and complete that it's astonishing. In a genius move, though, Franzen distracts our attention away from Alfred's deterioration just enough to make his own fall just as tragic as all the others -- the final scene of the penultimate chapter, as Chip and Alfred share perhaps their first genuine father-son moment, is written with such urgency and grace that even the most hardened of hearts will wilt at what transpires.

Filled with asides and commentaries on various contemporary topics, The Corrections strives to be a diary of the modern American family, and it succeeds with flying colors. The novel is a strong, assured portrait, but one that tells a dark and at times sinister tale that will affect you deeply. Approach with both curiosity and caution, but know that both will be handsomely rewarded.
… (more)
LibraryThing member stitchindye
I hated every single character in this book. But when I finished reading it, I found that I missed them all. Reading this book was definitely experiential. I didn't just read it, I lived through it.
LibraryThing member pdebolt
I tried to like this book; however, I found the plot to be bleak and the very opposite of noteworthy. There is not one likeable character doing one kind, charitable or generous act during the entire plodding book. I am not looking for an uplifting book with a "message" or a puerile happy ending, but I would like to think that there is more to life and living tthan is represented in this book. I like books that make me think while I am reading them and, if I am truly fortunate, when I have finished reading them. Jonathan Franzen has created a goup of greedy, self-serving characters who never deviate from our initial introduction to them. The author has talent - the characters are well defined and the plot makes sense within the confines of the structure created by Franzen. The world is surely peopled by persons who belie his definition of living within a family. This book saddened my heart.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheTwoDs
Take one hypercontrolling mother, a depressed, Parkinson-stricken father, and three adult children who are, in turn, depressed and materialistic, juvenile to a fault, and unsure of their place in the world. Add a satirical wit that aims for, and often hits, the jugular. Throw in enough observations on what "family" means at the end of the 20th century in America and you get this brilliantly realized, devastatingly funny, yet tender at times, account of the Lambert family of the fictional Upper Midwestern city of St. Jude. Never before has Tolstoy's famous line from Anna Karenina, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," so riotously applied. It's a coming-of-middle-and-old-age story.

Mom and Dad are pushing 80 years old; Dad is retired, depressed and battling his illness, Mom is willfully naive about the ways of her adult children. Oldest son Gary is married to a manipulative equally controlling woman and they have three manipulative kids, living in a wealthier suburb of Philadelphia. Younger son Chip was a college professor until being fired for inappropriate sexual contact with a student; now he does odd proofreading jobs, lives in New York City and dates a woman married to a Lithuanian government official-cum-gangster. Youngest child, daughter Denise, is a divorced chef garnering rave reviews for the new Philadelphia restaurant she was hired to run. Mom wants one last old fashioned family Christmas back at the family home in St. Jude, a fictional version of St. Paul.

The novel weaves back and forth in time telling the Lambert family's story, why they are the way they are and how they got here. Several scenes are painfully funny, others are incredibly sad and in this way, the book reminds me very much of some of John Irving's family tales. The characters are unforgettable, though they are all on the meaner side of personality charts, even though they don't realize it. Several of Jonathan Franzen's observations were so spot on that they replicated exact statements my own parents made during my childhood.

I highly recommend this for those adults coming to realize how similar they are to their parents and anyone seeking a hysterical portrait of an American family.
… (more)
LibraryThing member TheAmpersand
I read "Why Bother?" and "Mr. Difficult," Jonathan Franzen's thoughtful, heartfelt essays on the current state of literature, before I finally picked this one up, and while I don't think "The Corrections" is a bad book, I'm not sure that it lives up to Franzen's own exacting standards. In "Why Bother?", which has become better known as "The Harper's Essay," Franzen criticizes modern writers who alienate readers by producing overly theoretical, didactic, complex books. He seems to call for a literature that responds to our time but is more focused on character, story, and good writing, the qualities that draw readers in and make books really memorable.

It's a good idea and a very good essay, but I can't help but think that Franzen fails to take a lot of his own advice. He's a good writer and a born storyteller, but he can't seem to resist the temptation to drape his ideas on subject matter that seems, ten years after the book's publication, a bit obvious. The older Lamberts are solid, old-fashioned red state types, but their kids moved east and became blue state caricatures. One of them lives comfortably in the suburbs, one has affairs that she can't tell her mother about, and one of them is even a lonely, befuddled college professor at a fancy university. Since I'm a blue state type (Massachusetts, two degrees, registered democrat, NPR listener), I should identify with these people, but, in the book's least impressive moments, they still come off as strawmen. The professor's writing a screenplay, of course, and gets mixed up with some unscrupulous global capitalists, the daughter gets involved with a couple who are rolling in oceans of dumb New Economy money, and you can just imagine the rest. "The Corrections" sometimes threatens to become a literature version of "Law and Order: SVU," where all the stories are pulled from the headlines or, heaven forfend, bullshit Newsweek trend pieces.

Worse, Franzen sometimes succumbs to a tendency to overwrite. While it's difficult to imbue ordinary scenes with real meaning, he sometimes chooses to force the issue by piling on the verbiage. At various points throughout the book he risks losing both his readers and the objects he's trying to describe in thick brambles of very fancy, but ultimately unnecessary, description and well-wrought, but ultimately oppressive, meditation on the book's already well-articulated themes. Since the book's themes are already too close to the surface, Franzen's decision to bring his subtext forward robs the novel of some much-needed breathing space. This guy's got to start reading his own press releases.

All this would make "The Corrections" easy to dismiss if it wasn't for the fact that large sections of this novel are really very good. Franzen's great with the small stuff, like the telling detail or the hard-to-spot class difference, and he's able to skilfully integrate these little bits into long, satisfying Rothian rips of pure, pleasurable storytelling. His description of the rise and fall of Denise Lambert's big-time culinary career an is riveting stuff, and his descriptions of her doomed romantic entanglements just crackle with straight-out sensual energy. In a word, they're hot. This section of the book, contained in a chapter called "The Generator," flows easily and organically, but it's too bad that it's contained within a larger work that often seems overly labored and too carefully arranged. "The Corrections" is a good novell; it's just not the novel that Jonathan Franzen told me he wanted to write. Maybe he'll do that his next time out.
… (more)
LibraryThing member readingfiend
I dragged myself through this book - it just went on and on and on - AND ON. Not enjoyable at all.
LibraryThing member BrianDewey
Franzen, Jonathan. The Corrections. Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2001. I wanted to read this book ever since reading the review of it in the New York Times Review of Books. Aside from finding fault with the first few pages of the book, the reviewer couldn't lavish enough praise on it. Well, that was just the start of the publicity for this book. Oprah selected it for her book club --- and Jonathan Franzen got even more publicity when he said he didn't want to be a part of Oprah's book club! He views himself as a ``high art'' author. And then it wins the National Book Award for fiction. Well, I read the book on the Thanksgiving trip to St. Louis, and I wasn't disappointed. The book holds up to its publicity. Franzen has a wicked sense of humor, and the book reads as a delicious black comedy at parts. His writing style is a joy to read. And his characterization and depiction of petty family cruelty is dead-on. This is one of the best works of modern fiction I have read in a while.… (more)
LibraryThing member Katie_H
This novel was surrounded by media hype, so I was curious to learn what all the commotion was about. Franzen writes using an interesting and unique style, combining a dark and depressing story with plenty of laugh-out-loud humor. He portrays each of his subjects with a refreshing honesty that is rare among other authors. The narrative follows the Lamberts, a disfunctional middle-class family. Alfred suffers from Parkinson's disease, and his wife, Enid, keeps herself busy caring for him, discovering a lovely illegal drug along the way. Gary, is the oldest son, and, on the surface, he is the successful one, but his life begins to unravel before our eyes. Chip, the middle child, is an unemployed English professor who hopes to get his awful movie script picked up by a producer. Denise, the youngest, is a quasi-lesbian and renowned chef. There are multiple plots; the book is organized into novella-like sections, with each devoted to the life of a different Lambert, told from their perspective. The central story that intertwines all of the others surrounds Enid's struggle to gather her family together for a last Christmas, before Alfred's decline becomes too great. The character development is fantastic, and each family member has his own quirks, many of which I can imagine my own famiy members having, but I couldn't stand any of them. I thought the book dragged on too long, and I found the lack of chapters to be annoying, but overall, it was worth my time.… (more)
LibraryThing member fastreader
Second read gave me a fuller sense of what F. was up to and why Oprah picking him might have been so very annoying. Invariably, the audience would have concentrated on the story of the Midwestern sister and brothers and their parents, while he wanted us steered towards the more DeLillo elements: mind controlling drugs, IPO's, Internet and e-Bay purchased former Eastern Bloc countries. A smart, funny book but maybe not as smart as Frazen thought it was....… (more)
LibraryThing member ursula
Somewhere along the way, this book took a wrong turn for me. It starts off well, as we get to know midwestern couple Enid and Alfred and their three grown children, Gary, Chip and Denise. It went a little wrong for me when we find out that Chip is a professor who has been fired for sleeping with a student. If I were to take literature at face value, I would believe there are no professors who don't sleep with their students. Meanwhile, Gary is in a Mexican standoff of a marriage. Denise is seemingly successful as a chef, but trouble lurks there as well. Enid is portrayed as a reed that has always bent to Alfred's will. The problem is that Alfred is now suffering from Parkinson's and perhaps dementia, and his will is getting erratic.

The wrong turns really started coming when we spend some time inside Alfred's head, though. I guess I understand the desire to do a vivid immersion there, as his thoughts are ravaged by disease, but I just wanted out. And aside from short switchbacks, the book just continued down the wrong road for me from there. Gary's marriage was indescribably grueling to read about, Denise was so schizophrenic in her dealings with other people that it was hard to care, and Enid was completely flat. Chip at least got slightly more interesting after he went to Lithuania to engage in some shady business dealings. I enjoyed some of the writing quite a bit, so I tried to like the book, but I just couldn't.

Recommended for: professors who sleep with their students, people who aren't squeamish about bodily functions, people who hate their boring, midwestern parents, anyone who believes hell is other people.

Quote: "He felt as if he lacked the ability to lose all volition and connection with reality the way depressed people did in books and movies. It seemed to him, as he silenced the TV and hurried into his kitchen, that he was failing even at the miserable task of falling properly apart."
… (more)
LibraryThing member samsheep
Blimey. I had a mixed relationship with this one. I found it frustrating at times - a bit like a conversation where you want to hear the point but someone keeps rambling off topic. I also found it quite hard-going to read, and yet by about half way through it was approaching un-put-downable. I didn't exactly like any of the characters but I loved the way they gradually earnt more and more sympathy (mostly) as the book went on. I was utterly gripped by the end and found it quite devastating. Exhausting!… (more)
LibraryThing member miriamparker
Stopped reading while they were on the boat. TOO MUCH TIME ON THE BOAT, Mr. Franzen!
LibraryThing member dysmonia
Brilliantly written, but I didn't really enjoy reading it.

LibraryThing member Menagerie
Much has been said and written about this book, so I will keep my review short. People either love this book or hate it. I am definitely in the latter group. There is some absolutely beautiful writing in this book, phrases where I completely 'got' what Franzen was describing. More than once, I felt that rare click when something was written so perfectly that it seemed to be a cosmic truth.

That being said, the problem with this book is that there is not a single likable character. Not one. If I were to look at this as simply a writing exercise with a focus on structure, plotlines, and pacing, then this would be a different review. But I read a book for the story, not for technical expertise. It is hard to spend so much time and effort on a book when there is no one in its pages that you can root for or care about. All of these characters are miserable and as far as I can see, they ought to be. I kept reading, hoping that just one person would have one redeemable characteristic, but it never materialized.
… (more)
LibraryThing member sometimeunderwater
I love a novel that I can't decide if I love or hate. They usually end up amongst my favourites. With Franzen, I knew he had a reputation, both as a pretentious ass, and potentially one of the few modern authors who'll eventually enter the canon. Having now read The Corrections, I think both assessments are probably correct.

Franzen's minute pitch-perfect vision of daily American life feels like the work of a master noticer (I assume, not being American). His characters feel both painfully real, and like caricatures at the same time. The plot likewise has all the elements of a farce, whilst never feeling too far from a social realist presentation of middle-class America

Points added for the cheap but gratifying attack on mindlessly anti-corporate sentiment in academia. Points subtracted for the lazy characterisation of Lithuania, forgetting that real people live there (and read books) and that it isn't some hilarious dumping ground for post-Cold War stereotypes.
… (more)
LibraryThing member ElectricRay
Big it up to Jonathan Franzen for snubbing Oprah's book club: it demonstrates the instinct of a true marketer, seldom seen in bookish circles - Salman Rushdie (he of the Satanic Verses) is the only serious competition in those stakes, and for my money Franzen's the smarter operator: influential though she may be, Oprah Winfrey wosn't irrevocably sentence you to death for cutting her up just so you can make a few headlines.

Such idle controversy is only reason I came to be reading either book, actually: to see what all the hoo-haa was about. But where The Satanic Verses levelly and thoroughly stunk for a whole raft of reasons quite unrelated to Ayatollah Khomenei's Fatwa, Franzen's effort is one of the most remerkable reads I've ever had.

For one thing, in the the well established post-modern fashion, it's witty, solemn, tragic, ironic, brutal and hysterical, and in each case extremely so, and often the mood will switch quite jarringly. Franzen's depiction of ailing, failing patriarch Al Lambert is geniunely funny (he comes off more than a little like George Costanza's father), thoroughly tragic and, because of both aspects, shudderingly recognisable. Franzen's characterisation works so well because he recongises that the same person - the same characteristics, even, can be funny and tragic at the same time, depending on your perspective. And Franzen deliberately swtiches perspective throughout the book, to make this very point.

The book is also gripping: I'm no great fan of "longer fiction" -having a typical male attention span, I tend to lose interest in a novel after about 400 pages unless it has pictures, but experienced no such difficulties here. Indeed, I usually read at night to help me get to sleep, but The Corrections was keeping me so awake that I had to ditch it for something a little more somniferous.

It's not comfortable reading; because the characterisation is so plausible you find yourself applying the scenarios to your own life, which is (well, in my case) sobering.

Nitpicks - while the characterisation was spot on, some of the plot lines were a little contrived; I didn't buy Chip's Lithuanian foray, and I couldn't help thinking Franzen let his male fantasist off the leash a little in devising some of the other subplots.

But this is piffling stuff: overall, this is a five-starrer, no question about it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member mbergman
Franzen is another of those clever young writers. Here an aging couple wants to get their 3 adult children together for "one last Christmas." That's really the extent of the plot, except that we get filled in on the rambling back story of each character's life story. It's always engaging & perceptive, but the author has little empathy for his characters; he sneers at all of them. That's a fatal flaw for my reading experience.… (more)
LibraryThing member closedmouth
(Reviewed June 8, 2009)

The second I finished this book I started to miss the characters, despite their many neuroses. Or perhaps because of them. This really is a book that swallows you whole and fills you to the brim with undoctored humanity. It can be painful, but it's completely worth it.
LibraryThing member ChocolateMilkMaid
It's inaccurate to write a review before finishing the book, but I need to say this is a terrific read and people I've talked to about it are confusing it with Million Little Pieces, I guess because there was an Oprah controversy about both. Jonathan Franzen is being maligned as a plagiarist by those who caught half a story somewhere. It's very unfair to this tremendously effective work. I'm almost finished and cannot wait to learn the resolution. If there is one.… (more)
LibraryThing member bpeters65
The Corrections was a book I read after reading Freedom, which I absolutely loved. People love or hate these books and I understand why. It's genuinely disturbing to read about such dysfunction. His families are deeply flawed, almost to the point of unlikeable. I was warned that I may dislike all the characters, which was not true at all. I enjoyed each one of them to a degree, and was able to empathize with most. But I love this about Franzen. There is no whipped topping. And yet, for me, there is still a core to each individual that is sweet and pure. I can see it. Not sure why others have such difficulty.
I really enjoyed The Corrections, but for me, Freedom was more enjoyable.
… (more)
LibraryThing member kingarooski
It is unbelievable to think that I liked almost none of the characters in this book and yet I enjoyed the book itself. Some have referred to Franzen as a simplified DeLillo. If so, I might never give DeLillo another chance because why would I punish myself with his prose, when the more accessible Franzen is available?

A book about a disfunctional family, with 5 very different members all trying to find happiness in an unhappy life. Most annoying was probably Caroline, but Gary and her deserve each other in their smugness and hands-off parenting routine. Chip grew on me like fungus, slowly and quietly, until I found him palatable towards the end of the book. Denise was uptight, but alright. Enid made some bad choices and had to live with them, and though I wouldn't envy her life, she annoyed me the most. Al...well...the most complex and the least understood of them all...this book was really about Alfred.

The storyline unfolds slowly and little happens initially, except for flashbacks and filling in, but I really enjoyed the last half of the book. The language is easy to digest, but the message can be heavy, which is my favourite sort of book. I have Freedom on my shelves and might be reaching for that, as well as, researching Jonathan Franzen's back catalogue.
… (more)
LibraryThing member gooutsideandplay
What a book! It was a huge job to get through but deeply worth it. Amazng, beautiful writing. At times deeply funny, at times so painful you want to turn your head away from the page. Franzen's paen to dysfunctionality -- at the family, social, political and spiritual level is certainly no "feel good" read. The Corrections refer to the all the corrections -- lies, self-deceptions, self-medication (either through substances, sex or consumerisam) -- we use to get through the horror of our existence -- as well as the hope of making Corrections to ourselves to try to infuse some meaning in our existence.… (more)
LibraryThing member ljbwell
The Corrections is about a mid-Western family - their lives, their relationships to each other and to others, their thoughts, their dysfunctions, their frustrations, and their attempts to deal with all these issues. The father has Parkinson's, the mother in part doesn't want to admit the degree of his deterioration, in part she doesn't want to be burdened with it, and the 3 children (all moved to the east coast and adults, 1 married with children) are battling emotional demons of their own.

This has been sitting unread for several years now. At first, I hated it. I didn't like any of the characters, finding them grating and/or unsympathetic. The writing felt unnecessarily repetitive, flowery and overwrought (and I tend to like a more descriptive writing style). Then I settled in to the book a bit more. In the end, I looked past the individual characters and the writing style/word choices (which drove me nuts to the bitter end - scalpy? a crowd of human beings?) and focused on the emotions and relationships.

Whether you like it or not, this book captures the complexity of family: the tensions between family members who misunderstand one another; the desire to escape or distance yourself from family, and the (sometimes simultaneous) desire to be loved and taken care of by them; the obtuseness of family members; the endless attempts to live up to family expectations, and often feeling like you are falling short, whether they think you are or not; the conflicting feelings of wanting to criticize & complain about your family, yet heaven forbid anyone else (including your own spouse and children) do the same. Strip away the specific events and characters and examine the raw emotions and relationships below, and you're bound to recognize bits of your own experiences in there. And that can be an uncomfortable exercise.
… (more)

Language

Page: 0.336 seconds