Kevin's Reviews > The Corrections

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
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Aug 11, 09

Read in June, 2009

The Corrections is an intensely ambitious novel, and like many ambitious novels, it asks far more questions than it can - or wants - to answer. This is of course not a criticism - a novel with too many answers is propaganda, not art - and The Corrections succeeds in both its grander ambitions and its more intimate details. While dabbling in more experimental territory like works Gaddis, Pynchin, or DeLillo, The Corrections is conventionally plotted, following one woman's attempt to bring her whole family together for one last Christmas. The characters, which includes her distant, depressed, and increasingly senile husband; and oldest, banker son who clings to the appearance if idealized family; a striving, but reckless, daughter who is one of the most prominent young chefs in America; and a youngest son who has lost a promising academic career to a sex scandal, all struggle to make peace with their place in the family and the world at large. Along the way, Franzen makes room for a fraudulent investment scheme in Lithuania, the promises of the pharmaceutical industry, and an upcoming execution. While not all elements work (the talking turd fails more from its obviousness as a metaphor than from its juvenilia), Franzen has managed a novel that is both intellectual stimulating and tremendously moving. In exploring ideas of duty, obligation, connectedness, and authenticity, The Corrections also has a full set of complicated, believable characters who are at once thoughtful, selfish, infuriating and always understandable. The Corrections was a book that I never wanted to put down, and when I was forced to put it down, I was always thinking about it. The questions it raises about how to belong, how to be happy, how to fit perfect ideals in an imperfect world are important, and messy, and finally unanswerable, and Franzen has tackled them in such a way that is both intellectually honest and understanding of the human condition.
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