National Book Award, Fiction, 2001
The Corrections is a grandly entertaining novel for the new century - a comic, tragic masterpiece about a family breaking down in an age of easy fixes. After almost 50 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 long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives.
The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing specatcularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain on an affair with a married man - or so her mother fears.
Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to. Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.
Stretching from the Midwest at midcentury to the Wall Street and Eastern Europe of today, The Corrections brings an old-fashioned world of civic virtue and sexual inhibitions into violent collision with the era of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental health care, and globalized greed. Richly realistic, darkly hilarious, deeply humane, it confirms Jonathan Franzen as one of our most brilliant interpreters of American society and the American soul.
©2010 Jonathan Franzen (P)2010 Simon and Schuster
I can't tell you how many times I laughed out loud while listenting to this book. It is so well written, and so well read! I would listen while on the treadmill and get totally absorbed.
I don't know that this book is similar to any other I've read or listened to. The writing is somewhat similar to Franzen's "Freedom." Franzen is a true word smith!
Not possible to choose!
No -- it has to be savored. The writing is wonderful, but dense.
Get it. Take your time. Enjoy!!
Usually the unabridged version of any book is the best one- -however, after listening to the abridged version of this book, which was 9 hours long, I saw there was a new unabridged version. Of course I thought I had missed a ton of material since the unabridged book is 12 hours longer - so I listened to the unabridged version, which was 21 hours long - I've got to say the additional 12 hours did not add much substance to the book. There was some value in that explanations of some of the events were more understandable, but overall it really was not worth it. Both versions are good, but I would recommend the abridged -it gets you there without all the "fillers"-
The book is a masterpiece of the understanding of human emotions, but also of all the secret motivations that drive our daily lives- -we all have our own agenda's- I applaud the author on his incredible insight.into the human heart and his ability to translate those feelings with such skill.
By the way, the narrator of the Abridged Version is the very best to listen to- he hits the perfect mark everytime on all characters and just the right pauses and tempo!
funny, annoying, sad
I'm 10 years late to the party but will always be glad I came. This story creates a scenario where the pressures of adult life are squeezed by the reponsibility of aging parents . . . and poor/selfish choices.
The characters are infuriatingly flawed at times but it adds to their realism. At times I hated them and was shocked by their selfishness, but who is to say that a close review of our own lives wouldn't evoke similar annoyance or disgust in others. We are all flawed and these characters are too.
The reader's voicing of the declining Alfred was spot on.
I'm off to explore more Franzen.
I'm usually pretty easy to please when it comes to audio books, but this one I gave up on after three hours. The characters were just overwhelmingly unpleasant. I get what the author was going for, but I prefer to read/listen to stories where I care about the characters at least a little.
I stayed with it as long as I did because I hoped there would be some glimmer of hope for the characters. I kept thinking that one of the characters had to have some redeeming qualities. When I realized that it would never happen, I just couldn't bring myself to waste anymore time on the book. I loved "Freedom", but this is the second disappointing book in a row from Franzen.
I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.
Yes, as its' one of the single greatest novels ever written. The story captivates from beginning to end, brings a variety of timely social issues to the table and tells a great story around the discussion of those issues.
Chip's arrival at the home for Christmas, which seemed predictable but at the same time the author gave no clue that it would actually happen ... or Alfred's dementia induced talking feces..
His voice actually bothered me at first, or at least for the first few minutes of the listen. As you get involved with the characters of the novel what at first listen seems like the voice of an elderly man becomes capable of giving each character a completely distinct voice, and ultimately ends up in a great listening experience.
Neither, but there were numerous moments when Gary and Chip were placed into situations I, like many men, had experienced in real life.
One way to look at a novel is to reflect on the skill it demonstrates. And, in that way, The Corrections is staggeringly good. I’ve read Freedom and I’m working through The Kraus Project, but neither prepared me for the deep excellence here. I found myself reading sections – Alfred falling from the cruise ship, Denise deciding to sleep with her boss’s wife, Chip describing the allure and disaster of Lithuania, or Gary rationalizing why he’ll capitulate to his controlling wife – and thinking, “This is so wonderful that I have to remember it.” Then I’d come across some equally stunning sequence that put that one on the back burner.
In the course of this sprawling story, we get the interwoven stories of the four principal branches of the family – Alfred and Enid and then each of the three kids – with such depth and patience that it never feels as if there’s a “favorite” here. In the tradition of the great Victorian era novels, this tells the story of a class of people rather than a single protagonist. As such, it’s atypically American, concerned as it is with a collective rather than a representative individual. (As such, it’s also much less ‘post-modern’ than its reputation holds.)
We also get a range of emotions. In the early sections with Chip, there’s a kind of malaise, a sense that our esoteric cultural theory has left us no more able to understand our culture and that, at the same time, represents a great waste of intellectual energy. In the Gary sections, we get a dose of misogyny (in its frustrations with Caroline) redeemed in some measure by its equal or greater contempt for Gary in his emotional weakness. In the Alfred and Enid sections, we get a sense of the scale of the story; it really does extend across the lifetime of a family, giving honor both to the hopes of its early years and respecting the sometimes silly traditions (like the Advent calendar) that have defined it. And in the Denise sections, we get the sense of someone hungering after a legitimate artistry (through her cooking), finding it, and losing it in the intensity of her feelings and self-doubt.
Somehow, Franzen ties all those elements together. In keeping with the apparent ambition to give a full portrait to a middle American family at the dawn of the 21st century, this is funny, tragic, ironic, sincere, and intimate. As someone who aspires to write novels myself, I can see that Franzen has accomplished all this in the course of the book, but I can’t untangle the technique and devices that produce that accomplishment. In ways that happen only rarely, I get the experience of being taken for the best sort of literary ride.
In all those ways, I find this worthy of all the acclaim it’s gotten. Freedom is certainly a strong novel, but it’s simply not as good as this one. Franzen may not be as cranky as he sometimes comes across in the media but, if he is, I can imagine some of it may stem from his semi-conscious awareness that he’ll never write anything this good again. Of course, only a small handful of living writers will either. Skill will get you only so far; if you pour most of your life into one great project, there simply isn’t enough life left to fill another masterpiece. There are ideas, contradictions and disappointments (and Freedom is full of those) but there isn’t the same flood of overwhelming experience. The reservoir is empty.
There’s another way to assess a novel, though, and that’s in what they used to call “the moral” way. This novel is more than just its superb skill. It’s also a claim for the kind of America we are and that we aspire to be. In that dimension, I have more mixed feelings.
On the one hand, Franzen brings a smarm to this – especially early and then in the closing pages – that troubles me. Maybe he’s kicking off the dust of his postmodern adolescence when he gives us Chip in all his ironic and conflicted theorizing. And maybe he’s working through a pose when he gives us a Caroline who is so icy, so incapable of giving Enid one last Christmas with her family. And maybe there’s something ultimately ironic in the sense that everyone is called upon to find his or her parents wanting.
The bottom line, though, is a dissatisfaction, a lack of faith in the people who make up our lives, that seems to me pessimistic. And maybe a little too easy as well. This is a novel powerful enough that we either have to acknowledge it or wrestle with it. And I find I have to wrestle with it in a lot of ways.
I find that ambivalence running through to the very end here. In one sense [SPOILER] the novel really ends when Alfred, in his final lucid moments, begs Chip to help him kill himself. It’s an intense, beautiful, and human scene. The father realizes he’s confronting a shell of the life he’s known, and he sees himself subjected to the indignity he’s fled for as long as he’s been himself. The son, knowing the weight of what’s being asked of him, knows as well that he can’t do it. It’s a great exchange, one freighted with real emotion and power. There’s nothing ironic in it; it’s just two men confronting mortality and realizing their own weakness in the face of death.
In truth, though, the novel goes on a dozen or so more pages. In them, Enid emerges into denouement. She visits Alfred every day, seeing to his care, but also taking time to “correct” him relentlessly. She gets to nag the mostly mindless fellow; she gets his body to herself, and it’s his body, Franzen tells us, that she’s wanted all along.
I find that scene a reversion to what I called the smarm, a letting go of the power of Alfred’s dying into the irony of the generally governing sensibility here. It’s a lingering vision of America as a kind of emasculated place. (Not only is Enid full in charge of Alfred, but Gary has long since capitulated to Caroline, and Chip has become a kept man with his new wife.)
Maybe Franzen has a point with that ironic pessimism. Maybe our America really is caught in the sort of irony spiral that a David Foster Wallace takes as his starting and ending place. Still, there are glimpses here of a deeper moral vision, and yet Franzen largely forecloses that vision. For all that this is a novel of surpassing skill, it gives us a disappointment with contemporary America that, next to an image it nearly accepts, is a disappointment itself.
Unlikable people who were unfailingly interesting to me. Maybe because the writing is so compelling. I loved this sad book. (Also funny.)
This was the most depressing book I have ever listened to.
I kept listening thinking it would get better but it only got worse.
Not at all what the editor's description said.
Do not recommend at all.
Sorry I lost a credit on this one!
Report Inappropriate Content