Book #86: The Corrections

Ah, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. That book. That. Book.

Several years ago I read this beautiful piece by Jonathan Franzen in The New Yorker. It was about David Foster Wallace, Robinson Crusoe, and mourning and it’s probably still the best thing I’ve ever read. Naturally, since he wrote the best thing I’ve ever read, I figured this meant I loved Jonathan Franzen. So, a few years ago, I decided to read The Corrections. 

Bad idea. I hated that stupid book. I didn’t like it much more this time around either.

It’s basically the story of a family struggling to stay together (and hold it together) in the early 2000s. Enid and Albert Lambert’s children – Gary, Chip, and Denise – have all grown up and moved far from their midwestern childhood town. As her children’s lives slowly crumble in different ways and Albert’s health and mental state deteriorate as he succumbs to Parkinson’s disease, Enid tries desperately to bring her whole family back together for one last Christmas in their house.

It sounds like it should be interesting and pretty good. But it’s not. Evidently Franzen and I didn’t see eye to eye on what important, interesting things should be the center of the book. We jump from an interesting plot line to several pages of mind-numbing dialogue between Scandinavians arguing about whether Sweden or Norway is better. And then there are a few scenes with a sociopathic talking turd, for crying out loud. It just…didn’t work out for me.

And then there are the characters. I suppose I’ll say this for Franzen – he really knows how to write flawed characters. There was not one character in The Corrections  that I liked. They were all pretty awful and had very few redeeming qualities. I didn’t care about what happened to any of them, not in the sense that they weren’t interesting and I just didn’t care, but in the sense that they were all just terrible and flawed and I wasn’t really rooting for them at all.

It doesn’t make an interesting experience, reading a book where you don’t like a single character. I guess I’ll also concede this – Franzen really is a great writer. I think I’ll stick with his essays.

Rating: ***
Up Next: Fear of Flying

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