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Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

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  • Lauren
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 12-04-11

AMAZING

One of the best books I've listened to all year....well next to Franzen's more recent novel, 'Freedom'. Both are so so so good. Franzen is my favorite author right now. These are the types of listens that will make your next audible purchase very difficult because nothing will be as good.

14 of 19 people found this review helpful

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I would like to read the corrected Corrections

Would you try another book from Jonathan Franzen and/or George Guidall?

I am not sure if I will ever listen to or read another Franzen work, but we shouldn't say never

If you’ve listened to books by Jonathan Franzen before, how does this one compare?

nope

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

I love Mr. Guidall's work, usually, and here as the voice of the older couple he is great (and even the younger men), but I just didn't care for his voice for the women. It was hard for me also because their are no chapter breaks in the audio book and because of this and the fact that Mr Guidall's voice really didn't show the changes, it was often confusing.

Was The Corrections worth the listening time?

eh

Any additional comments?

I think this gentleman is an incredible writer, but sometimes that isn't enough. I really hated the characters and everything about them, I would have loved just one person in which I could relate, but this whole family is perverted and sad! There wasn't one I rooted for except maybe the young book reader. I don't mind a few scenes of passion or whatever you would like to call them,or characters that are harsh with their language if the characters stay true to their form. But, good lord, I finally found myself saying out loud, "COME ON", "Geesh", Get A Room! When a writer is an incredible word smith but is self indulgent, for me, this can makes for a awkward read. Some things are better left to the reader's imagination. This kind of writing, to me, is like the gratuitously made movies in Hollywood today. A little go a long way. And that's my two cents worth

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 12-01-16

Staggering Skill to Sometimes Questionable End

Any additional comments?

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.<br/><br/>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.)<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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. <br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.) <br/><br/>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.<br/>

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I kept trying - really, I did

I was hoping that George Guidall (one of my favourite narrators) would be enough to sustain me through this, but, sadly, no. I kept trying - interspersing pieces with other audiobooks, but nothing could make me want to continue listening to this. Not even Guidall.

Perhaps if you're already a fan of Franzen, but the senselessness and the attempts at humour just didn't make anything, or anyone, interesting to me. When Al started having hallucinations about his own talking feces, I decided I couldn't go on. But I rallied for one more try.....and I still found I had no interest.

While the characters might have be interesting (though the parents are cliches of annoying parents, and the kids span the cliches of anti-traditional grown children), they are all overly described and overly analyzed, leaving nothing for the reader to create. And the situations? Well, I thought all the attempts at humour and one-liners fell flat, so without a plot there's not much else.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Comic, but cliche

Even three quarters of the way through this book, I was still feeling somewhat ambivalent about it. I found several of the characters much too cliche: Enid as the overbearing and complaining mother, Alfred as the inept and remote father, Chip as the English Professor son who lost his job because he slept with his student, etc. It all just seems so unoriginal. At the same time, Franzen manages to create some fun and generates a comic (if conventional) view of the boringness of the U.S. Midwest.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • emily
  • Fayetteville, AR, United States
  • 05-26-16

Intense

The reality, that's what I liked! I had family members who were afflicted with Alfreds disease. It was was unbelievably real and George Guidell is marvelous. Insightful and moving. Excellent book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Relentlessly Depressing

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Family dysfunction writ large and funny too!

Midwestern baby boom family lovingly deconstructed Pathos and truth shine from large cast of caricatures acting within engrossing interwoven subplots. Plenty of laughs too. Great read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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even better than expected

After the book unfolds somewhat slowly the story gains considerable momentum. the author presents an impressive work that with its multiple threads and carefully crafted characters doesn't fall short of the best works in literature.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Kept Listening

I kept listening and it threw off my sleepiing pattern. I could not fall asleep to the book as I kept wondering what would happen next.I do not know if it was te story or the narrator that gripped my attention. I highly enjoyed it despite losing sleep.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful