Angela's Reviews > The Corrections

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
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did not like it
bookshelves: modern-canon
Recommended for: people dying a slow and painful death and want to make it worse

4/19/17 update: I appreciate that so many people have "liked" this review and/or commented on it, whether we agree or not. Please know that I will not be interacting with any comments as I remember almost nothing about this novel other than the repulsion I felt toward it. I cannot add anything worthwhile to a discussion or engage in any intelligent discourse unless I read it again.... which I think we all know I am not going to do. That being said, anyone using the comments section to make a personal attack on my character or ability as a reader (a decade ago, mind you), will have their comment deleted. Kindly agree to disagree and move along.


A seemingly unending stream of word vomit.

I can think of no other way to describe this thing.

I really, really despised almost everything about The Corrections. I finished it solely so that I could write a horrible review and have it be valid.

At no single point before the last 10 pages of this 566-page monster did I feel a shred of sympathy with any of the characters. There were several moments where I thought Franzen would have been better off writing dialogue-for-the-average-Joe instead of the trumped up and out of place Dawson's Creek-esque vocabulary in almost every human interaction. His insistence on using the "25-cent word" at every turn made reading the story choppy at best... aggravating and unenjoyable.

I also couldn't help but see the author in a lot of his characters' worst personality traits. Annoying hipster-lecher I'm-better-than-capitalism-but-still-depend-on-it Chip. Whiny too-good-for-anyone Gary. Ungrateful I'm-a-bitch-but-require-all-your-love-and-attention Denise. The parents? Alfred is the only one for whom I felt any sympathy and that didn't happen until the last dregs of the book... and I think maybe even then it was a knee-jerk reaction at being so close to the book being over. Enid's issues rubbed me the wrong way for many reasons, not the least of which being that I could see my own mother in her... which means, I suppose, that Enid was probably the most well-represented character in the novel.

The secondary characters were almost entirely a sorry lot with personalities to the extreme in any number of directions - too smart, too stupid, too needy, too plain, too EVERYTHING.

I know that I'll never understand the praise this book received from critics and readers... and I'm ok with that. I do wish, however, that I could meet some of the people who relate it so easily to real life. Meeting them, perhaps, would truly terrify me.
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Reading Progress

September 4, 2007 – Shelved
Started Reading
January 1, 2008 – Finished Reading
October 8, 2014 – Shelved as: modern-canon

Comments Showing 1-50 of 83 (83 new)

message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen wow... i love you :D

Angela LOL, happy to be loved! Hope I brought a smile to your face. :->

Justin Sheppard I certainly understand most of your complaints about the novel, as they mirror my own to a degree. You're dead on about Franzen's language, it's over the top, and detracts from the overall enjoyment of the book. Ditto with the secondary characters. There's too many of them, and they are paper-thin in terms of development.

As for why so many people enjoyed the book, I think it's precisely because Franzen was able to create characters that you felt absolutely no sympathy for (once again, I agree with you that Alfred is the exception, which I thought was the nice touch.)I think a lot of people (including myself)can relate on some level to the inherent dysfunction of the entire family. It's a bit over the top obviously, it is fiction afterall, but I think there's an underlying truth in the novel about modern family relationships which hits close to home. Franzen, to his credit, doesn't try to sugarcoat it either.

Anyway, you're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I think what you hate most about the novel is kind of the point of the novel.

Angela Thanks for the comment, Justin!

It's nice to receive a well-thought-out response when I thought I might get some flames for my review.

Hating the very point of the novel seems like a good enough reason to paste my one star up there, at any rate. You put it quite succinctly.

Had I not wanted to write a valid review, I probably wouldn't have finished the book at all... It's so rare that I dislike something so much, which, I suppose, is impressive in some way or another!

message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa "word vomit" That was great!!!

I tried to read this but couldn't really get into it... word vomit I suppose!

Angela Haha, thanks... yeah, I really had to force my way through to get to the end of this. It was pretty awful.

Connie Could not have said it better!

Angela Thanks very much! I'm always glad to hear from folks of a like mind!

message 9: by Lisa (new)

Lisa ... so have you tried to read "Infinite Jest?" I picked this up around the same time and, well, word vomit...

And I REALLY tried... My best friend and I have a song for this type of book (as well as everyday life situations) "FORCIN'IT!...FORCIN' IT!!!!"

Rebecca I agree, wholeheartedly.

Austen to Zafón Me too! Me too! This book was ridiculous.

message 12: by Adra (new) - added it

Adra Cole Benjamin "A seemingly unending stream of word vomit."

Now this is the most perfect way to sum up this book. I'm stuck on page 40-ish and loathe every character.

Tricia Sutton You are so spot on about "word vomit". That is precisely why I put it down after about fifty pages. I hated it after 10 pages, but I really wanted to like it so I put out for 40 more.

I envy you that you could read the whole thing to give it a valid review. I wish I could do that. It sucked. There, that's my 50 page review.

message 14: by Jen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jen I heartily agree with your review. My review of this book was much briefer, but yours articulated everything I thought about it. I'm glad I'm not alone!

message 15: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim "I finished it solely so that I could write a horrible review and have it be valid."

I don't agree with your review, but have to give you serious props for this.

Angela Thanks, Tim. If I remember correctly, it took me about six weeks to wade my way through it.

message 17: by G (new) - rated it 5 stars

G It will be studied decades from now in most English Lit. courses throughout Norh America. It "pops" from the very first voice we hear (Chip's).

message 18: by Alan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan Wow. I've just finished this book, and despite struggling to stay with it for the first hundred pages or so, I ended up loving it. Rightly or wrongly, it seems I don't need to like the characters to get something from the book.

That said, surely it's difficult not to feel sympathy for Enid? It seems to me that she's a product of her own background, restricted by her circumstances to the point that she can't recognise her own flaws?

I agree with your point about the worst character traits being reflective of Franzen's perceived personality, but that didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the story. As Justin already pointed out, the success of the novel, for me, at least, revolves around the detailed and uncanny observation of a dysfunctional family in meltdown. Maybe it's a sharp association with this element that fans of the book share.

message 19: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian The "25-cent word usage" that's been complained about I find to be absolutely misunderstood, in that the idea of utilizing a vocabulary which the "average reader" might not pick up on is not, in any way, a device that leads to choppiness. The last thing I want an author to do is speak down to the reader, that's a travesty and a constant issue with a lot of what is known as "popular fiction." Some people might be more comfortable with simplification and/or a liberal dosage of cliches, and maybe the idea of language acrobatics only appeals to those in blinkered, literary-obsessed circles, but there's no doubt that Franzen writes for that kind of reader (in interviews he's said he writes for a reader who is like himself but not an exact clone).

The likability of the characters I do understand is an issue for some readers. However, not only did I find the characters believable and finely-tuned, I am an advocate for the idea that the characters in a book do NOT have to be easy to empathize with to signify great fiction.

And lastly, there's a constant misconception that secondary characters shouldn't be anything but (what E.M. Forster describes as) flat characters. There was so much depth to the main characters, that an intricate background or exploration of a side character's emotional stability is information overload. It's also important to not confuse the term "flat" with "uninteresting," and if that's how anyone perceived them than I am greatly sorry.

Really though, to say Jonathan Franzen creates anything less than superb prose, even if you don't like the characters, is a statement guided by misunderstanding.

I'm very sorry you were unable to get out of this book what so many people were able to.

message 20: by 34ler (new)

34ler Angela, I wish I would've read your review before dedicating a week to the author's humiliating literary strap-on.

I can see no other reason than politics as to why bores like this door stop, A Known World and Tinkers win awards.

An absolutely, embarrassingly terrible book.

message 21: by 34ler (new)

34ler Ian wrote: "The "25-cent word usage" that's been complained about I find to be absolutely misunderstood, in that the idea of utilizing a vocabulary which the "average reader" might not pick up on is not, in an..."

I don't think that the dislike for novels w/big words equals literary stupidity. If you're gonna work my brain out there better be something for me at the end of it.

Franzen uses these "25 cent" words badly. And it's obvious he does this to impress. A real crime.

Shovelmonkey1 I'm just cracking open the cover of this and now heading into its pages with a certain amount of trepidation after reading all these comments. I don't want to get covered in word vomit!!!

Jillybeads81 Hall-Parris couldn't of said it better myself :)

message 24: by Julie (new) - rated it 1 star

Julie Thank you for your review. I knew I couldn't be the only person who felt compelled to finish it just so I could be sure it was as dismal as I thought. Couldn't see the humor and I see the humor in nearly everything!

message 25: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John Kerridge I actually enjoyed it, but also enjoyed your review

Janice Thanks for your review. I, too, worry about meeting a person who liked this book.

message 27: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Charles I don't know what to think of myself given that I find all the main characters extremely relatable and love them all. I first read Freedom and the book was so hyped I was sure I wouldn't love it, and I loved it, and now I love this. I almost wonder if to love franzens stuff you have to be a hypocritical middle class Waspy anti-corporate guilty liberal with enough introspective tendencies to truly believe you are an ass and basically wrong about everything, fundamentally selfish, and pretty much destined to average failures and successes in spite of the self aggrandizing sensation white middle class guilt provides you. Or that you are a person Today whom the person you were a decade ago would have justifiably despised. And then also that you think hypocrisy and self delusion--primarily as observed in yourself--are really funny. So basically it's not an issue of big words or literary interest or hi brow or low brow, but more like "good people" vs "awful people" with the latter being the franzen fans.

message 28: by JJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

JJ Duncan Sooo you read a book specifically so you could give it a credible bad review? I can't decide whether that's sadistic or masochistic, but either way it's ridiculous.

Angela It's both. And what's life without some of the ridiculous?

It was also a little hopeful. I kept expecting some big epiphany that would make it the masterpiece it was supposed to be.

message 30: by Mike (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike W I have a weird habit of only allowing myself to read the most negative reviews of a book I'm currently reading or am about to read. Yours was at the top of the list at one star, and was definitely entertaining. I'm 60 pages in, and so far I love this novel. It's funny (not laugh out loud, but entertaining) and interesting, and so far I've found the characters to be relatable. There is at least a decent chance that I'm an asshole though, so take that for what it's worth.

I do give you credit for finishing the entire book before panning it. I automatically ignore the opinion if anyone who ditches a book early but feels qualified to critique it as a whole.

message 32: by Mike (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike W Forgot I had commented on this review. Just coming back to say you were right.

message 33: by Mbogo (new)

Mbogo J word,its time someone comes out and says the king is naked,couldnt understand why it was nominated for a pulitzer

message 34: by Jeff (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeff Kudos to you for saying what you think. I agree that the characters are unlikable, but it speaks to me in that their is a realness in thr negativity of the novel. In this stupid age we live, people thrive on it. We love the downfall, more than we love the rising.

message 35: by Ben (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben Thank - I'm not alone in the pretentiousness of this writing. 100-plus word sentences? I think I counted one on a Random page at over 200. I have no idea how you got through this thing.

message 36: by Marta (new) - rated it 1 star

Marta I hated this book from the beginning to the end. I hated every character. I am glad to see I am not alone.

Elena Oh thank you. I thought I was the only one to despise this novel so much. I was starting to re-think my judgment -maybe it was me, maybe I didn't "get" it - then I read "word vomit" and everything makes sense again

Sonja ✧ Badass Wanderer ✧ This review made me chuckle. :)

Manuela Gotta give it to Franzen to create such a polarizing book. Still trying to understand why people feel so strongly about this book in either direction, and who should be afraid of whom...

message 40: by Sean (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sean Higginson I would love to read your review of Freedom

Randolph Wow, you and I must not have read the same book. Thoroughly disagree.

Jonah Pechenik The purpose of art isn't to beg sympathy. In creating fiction, one begs the creation of reality, of something real. In everyday life, do we always sympathize with other people? No. But that is the beauty of the corrections. It is about people faced with the often horrible realities of modern life: dementia, depression, decline, and coping with reality as best they can. That is reality. The disgust we feel for certain decisions is what makes the characters so tangible. I think you quantify a good book by the wrong measures. You are a bad reader. Reading reviews like this make me despair for the dedicated author; For the literary spirit. You want enjoyable characters who are easy to wrap compassion around? Go back to reading your smut authors like Dan Brown and Terry Pratchet.

Screw you.

message 43: by Sean (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sean Higginson You should give smut a chance every once in a while

message 44: by Sean (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sean Higginson You should give smut a chance every once in a while

Victoria With the advent of Franzen's next book on the horizon (and the ensuing fawning), I had to find people who didn't drink the Kool Aid way back when. For so long I've had this malingering feeling that I was alone. Thank you Angela for so perfectly capturing its essence and categorizing...for people dying a slow painful death and wanting to make it worse...indeed! I know I'm late to the party with this note, but with vindication comes gratitude.

Aeseyman Angela, I applaud you for finishing. I wasn't able to force myself past half way.

message 47: by Sa'Di (new)

Sa'Di Sahar I think the end was one of the best of all books you've read, when you realized you were finally free from that torture.

Harold Wapshot I just wanted to let you know that I am lobbying everyone I know to ignore this site completely. None of you is competent to even review this book. Instead you post snarky little comments that reveal your Freshman-lit level understanding. The idea of rating a book based on stars is ridiculous in itself. Star ratings are for gadgets. Hopefully we can eventually get Goodreads to be ignored by Google searches for books, or to at least be off the first screen. Hoping for your early demise.

Aeseyman Wah wah! If you don't like it, stay off the site. Why do you feel the need to belittle others? Go play with your superior self and leave us alone.

message 50: by Jenn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenn Just finished Freedom and really enjoyed it, what I liked about it was that his description of Parkinson's and dementia is very accurate. Sadly my family's situation exactly mirrored that of the Lamberts - my dad suffered the same fate. Ok, hopefully we are nicer and I'm not American anyway, but trust me it's just as it's described in the book. You don't behave with the understanding you want to, you pass through all stages of denial, you have to watch a man you looked up to wetting himself in corners, it's horrible and bewildering and Franzen gets it exactly right. The last 50 pages or so are brilliantly written and I think most people who have trodden the dementia carers treadmill would agree with me.

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