The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
There’s nothing like a hurricane to get one hunkered down and blogging. Thanks, Hurricane Irene, for getting me in front of the computer. So, where are we? For today’s post, I thought I’d talk about a “hurricane” of a book in that it sparked such a controversy. You all know what I’m talking about: The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen. You know, Franzen. He’s the one who, after Oprah put his novel on her booklist, had the audacity to tell her he didn’t want the recommendation. Which led to cries of elitism from many. Which led to his re-accepting Oprah’s support. Which led to another great drama for Oprah to show on her show. Which, of course, led to more publicity all around for The Corrections. The thing is, scandal and fanfare aside, The Corrections is a good book. I really enjoyed it. It took me awhile to get to reading it just because of all of the hoopla surround ing it. But, when I finally sat down and read it, I was completely absorbed. It covers an American family, both the parents and the adult children, as they navigate personal, family and national crises. And, Franzen creates such lively story lines and individual voices for each character that the reader can totally lose herself in the pages. Parts of the novel were especially well done, captured tragedy and humanity and humor all at once. For example, Franzen’s rendering of the character of the father of the family is spot on, portraying the father as he descends into a senility that is horrifying and ridiculous as once. One child works in the restaurant business in Philadelphia–and Franzen’s scenes of restaurant life play out realistically. One son works for a company in Lithuania, and Franzen’s portrayal of this son’s search for meaning through bizarre capitalistic schemes is very true to our modern life. Franzen captures the midwestern sense of place in his descriptions of the family homestead, while simultaneously capturing the midwestern sense of displacement when family members uproot themselves and become ensconced in an urban east coast lifestyle. By the end, Franzen has portrayed a family both maddening, heartbreaking and funny. If the sign of a good author is one who can make the reader feel with great intensity, then Franzen has accomplished this. All hulabaloos with Oprah aside.