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2012 Book Discussions > The Corrections - The Failure (June 2012)

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message 1: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments Chapter 2. Please limit comments to events within or before this point in the book.

message 2: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) Sadly, I begin to suspect I'm related to the character of Chip. Anyone who was young (or younger) during the 80's and 90's will probably find this book all too resonant and reminiscent of the attitudes of the time, both in major cities and the less urban mid-west. I think that in fact I have to wait to see if my unreliable Chip is dropping in this weekend with a breezy vapid emptiness that belies the closeness you'd expect of blood relation.

But the book is good.

message 3: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments Would you care to elaborate on the attitudes that you are referring? I don't know if I was really self-aware enough at that time to say what was going on in the 80's and 90's.

message 4: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) Self-important self-absorption, the casting of mid-westerners as backwards bumpkins, betrayed, of course, by those that lean into that typecasting. Secretaries writing 17.4 APR MasterCard checks to their brokers for dot.com stocks, buying $78 pieces of fish, the general attitude towards the value (financial or moral) of things. The claim can at least be made today that there's a sheepish pretend veneer of doubt and shame over the behavior now.


The way Chip and the other kids reminds me of my siblings. I'm probably guilty of behaving like Denise at times (although I beg the excuse of living closer to my family than she)

I just find a lot of resonance in the writing, I suppose.

message 5: by Silver (new)

Silver I really enjoy the realism of this book, it seems every time I start to like one of the characters something else is reveled about them which changes my opinion. Thus far I find essentially all of the characters are rather unlikable, and yet on the other hand they also all have their moments, and I do not flat out dislike any of them, though on various different points I strongly disagree with them. And they all have their moments of hilarity.

One of the things which I found a bit difficult in this chapter is following the chronology of events with the way in which it goes back and forth in time. As in the example of the salmon in the pants at the market place, which I found to be one of the funniest moments within the chapter. At first I presumed that this was taking place before Alfred and Enid arrived, and that Chris was shopping for their lunch, but than later on it made it sound as if it was happening after he had left his apartment in pursuit of Julia. And there were a few other moments where I was not entirely sure where in time a certain event was happening and it took me a while to track when certain things were happening.

message 6: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
In the discussion for the first chapter, Will commented on Franzen's influence on Chad Harbach's Art of Fielding. I just finished Art of Fielding, and loved it, but I'm having trouble getting through the Corrections, largely, I think, because I dislike so many of the characters so much of the time. Harbach's characters developed in interesting and believable ways, took responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and seemed like basically good people. Contrast Chip's affair in The Corrections with Affenlight's in Fielding. Chip has an affair with a female student he does not care about or respect, under the influence of drugs she procures for him, and thereby torpedoes his academic career, but I felt like he deserved it, and was a failure in large part because of his own rotten personality and bad behavior. In Fielding, by contrast, a University president has an affair with a male student, thereby bringing an end to his career, but in his case the relationship was loving and caring, and I did not feel like Affenlight deserved to have anything bad happen to him. He was indiscreet, and in his position, doing what he did was stupid, but I did not dislike the character for doing it.

message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver Casceil wrote: "In the discussion for the first chapter, Will commented on Franzen's influence on Chad Harbach's Art of Fielding. I just finished Art of Fielding, and loved it, but I'm having trouble getting thro..."

I think that the dislikability of the characters is by intention. The lack of taking any real personal responsibility for their actions I think does speak to modern attitudes. It reflects a sense of entitlement, apathy, disconnection, and self-involvement which I think is prevalent within the modern age. There is I believe a sever lack of any sort of sense of personal reasonability, and a far greater intention for people to perceive themselves as victims and presume that everything most be someone else's, or something else's fault.

message 8: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) I agree more or less with Silver's assessment. I think it's highly intentional, and the willingness to view oneself as the victim of your own actions - while blaming others or the world for them - is perhaps a cliched hallmark of the 90's-00's.

The debate over likeability is such a common and fascinating topic, and not specific to this book, so I'm going to ask the question in the general discussion folder, because I think it's yearning for debate... here's the link: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/9...

message 9: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments Silver: I think you hit this one on the head in pointing out sense of entitlement and lack of personal responsibility. Very well put. This also helps with my initial question on the believability of the characters in how awful they seem.

message 10: by Glenn (new)

Glenn | 14 comments To me, what makes the book compelling is that the characters are quite aware of their flaws and wish to become more likable. The title of the book ties into this attitude, as each character to this point seems to feel they are close to being a decent person and a functional family member, if only they could make a few corrections to their outlook and personality.

For Chip in this chapter, this might mean reconciling his rebellious, modern nature with his Midwestern, conservative upbringing. The irony that the reader understands is that this reconciliation is impossible and perhaps undesirable.

As we continue through the book, the challenge for the characters and the reader will be to to accept everyone as they are - flawed in understandable, all-too-traceable ways. As a reader, the realism of the book's dialogue and characterization makes it easy for me to visualize this characters, though I'm sure I wouldn't want to be a part of the Lambert family.

message 11: by Silver (new)

Silver Kevin wrote: "Silver: I think you hit this one on the head in pointing out sense of entitlement and lack of personal responsibility. Very well put. This also helps with my initial question on the believability o..."

For myself, I cannot say I really found the believability in all of their faults, flaws, and awfulness to be all that difficult, though admittedly I have always tended towards cynicism in my view of humankind as a whole. But in reading this book one of the first things which popped into my mind is how much of a true portrayal of the modern age it seemed to be.

There are also elements of it in reading that reminded me of Olive Kitteridge particularly in the estrangement between Enid, Alfred and their children.

I think Alfred is very representative of his generation and the times in which he was raised in, and how that affects some of his own views. There were moments in which I found myself quite liking him and viewed him as one of my favorite characters, but than he would come out and say something perfectly awful, but in some regards he reminded of my own grandfather who in many ways was a great guy but also a product of the era in which he grew up in.

To a point I have to agree with Glenn and while I do not know if I myself as the reader will feel compelled to accept these characters for their flaws, but I do think that it is very much about the way in which families must learn to accept each other for all of their flaws and just take each other for who they are good and bad alike.

message 12: by Sara (new)

Sara (mewnbeauts) | 21 comments This is my family almost to a T
Alfred is like my dad. Very realistic, very narrow minded and set in his ways.
Enid is like my mother who never listens but has so many things to say, most of time, irrelevant things to say.
Chip is like my brother who, like me, is struggling to take responsibility. Making risky investments and yielding hardly any profit - not to mention stealing and burrowing recklessly.
While Denise is more level headed she really doesn't have any charm, very much like me.
Anyway, the book has an interesting fluidity to it. I find myself guessing where the present ends and a flashback begins, but it works for the novel. Otherwise I'd get bored easily.

message 13: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments I definitely see components of my family in the characters. The "standard midwesterner" does resonate. But I don't think (or at least hope) that these traits are as defining. Franzen is very direct in addressing the faults of the characters, which highlights the negative in them.

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