Emily's Reviews > The Corrections

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
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May 23, 07

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Read in December, 2002

I'm writing this review in response to Kate's review, which tore it up with a lot of intelligent points. I feel the need to respond because I loved this book, and even re-read it about a year ago.

One point Kate makes is that this book is full of rotten characters and some of them don't stand up off the page. (My mother's main complaint, too, was that the characters weren't nice.) I'd agree that there are a couple characters who are flimsy (mainly, SPOILER, the couple Denise has her thing with), but the argument about the rotten characters, perhaps it's a personal thing -- I just don't care. The rotten attributes of the people, I thought, didn't exist to make them rotten as much as to show the secret lives these characters were living, the flaws in need of "correction." (Correction is certainly a heavily played theme, but Franzen goes about it addressing so many different parts of personal and public life that I find it hard to hold this interlacing against the novel.) Hm, the way that last sentence is written seems to imply Franzen is formulaic, which I don't mean to say. I mean to say Franzen is a master at craft. And again on the "rotten characters" point -- maybe I'm a pessimist, but I think all people have ugly things inside. And I think this is what makes us human.

The main thing I love about this novel, the redeeming quality I would like to use as a shield, is the author's mastery of psychic distance and perspective. Using third person, Franzen manages to craft the interior drives, passions, and thoughts of Chip, Denise, and Gary with complete distinction. I really had the sense that these were three different people, and for an author to do that in different books, much less ONE book, is brilliance (think of all the oeuvres jammed with main characters who are all stale, redressed versions of one another). At the time I read it, I honestly felt the only time I'd seen different perspectives drawn so well was between Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus.

Another thing I like about this book is the arc. Again, craft, sure, but can't I care about the craft? Compared to books of similar lengths, this book has both the parabolic & the exponential. I remember that even though I had already read the part about (SPOILER AGAIN KINDA) the father's discovery on the work bench in the basement in the New Yorker first, when it showed up in the novel there was enough compression to make me weep.

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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Elaine Great review. Thank you for defending this amazing novel--it's a contemporary masterpiece, in my opinion, and one of my favorite books.


Emily Thanks!


Mavic i used to think that my family is untypical until i read The Corrections. :)

good review.:)


message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian [Paganus de] Graye Great review, Emily.

I know it was a long time ago, but do you have a link to Kate's review?


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