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2012 Book Discussions > The Corrections - The More the Thought About it... (June 2012)

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message 1: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments Discussion section for anything through the third chapter.


message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver I have to say I cannot help but to feel sympathetic towards Gary, Caroline is a real piece of work. And though Gary has his own flaws, and I do not agree with everything about him, thus far I must say that he is one of my favorite characters in the book.

On the question of believability which was brought up earlier, I have to say that I think one of the things which makes this book so realistic, as well as enjoyable to read is the fact that I think that it does have a lot of relatablilty. I think that many of us can see aspects of people we know with the various different characters of the book.


message 3: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments I found myself questioning the plight of Gary. Glenn mentions in the general banter section how each of the chapters is tailored to the voice of its main character, so it seems deliberately vague on whether the cruelty of Caroline is as plotting as Gary suspects or if it's all in his head. It is interesting to be constantly switching back and forth between perspectives of Gary and Caroline as the victim, since it is left so open and ambiguous.


message 4: by Silver (last edited Jun 13, 2012 12:01PM) (new)

Silver Kevin wrote: "I found myself questioning the plight of Gary. Glenn mentions in the general banter section how each of the chapters is tailored to the voice of its main character, so it seems deliberately vague o..."

Yes that is true, and certainly none of these characters can be deemed as "reliable" but the way Caroline is perceived is just so utterly obnoxious and infuriating that I cannot help but to tend towards Gary side.

While it may be true that there is some exaggeration on his part about the extent of her plotting against him, particularly in his presuming that she is actively trying to turn his children against him, it does seem unreasonable of her that she cannot consent to go to St. Jude's, just this once. And unless Gary is out right lying (or hallucinating) he really did see her limping before the phone rang.

Though I am sure it is true that if we did see things from Caroline's point of view needless to say she would have a rather different perception of events, and no doubt they both equally have their problems, and their own flaws, and neither one is probaly in truth wholly the victim.


message 5: by Maggie (new)

Maggie (mmorrell) | 14 comments Some people are just nasty.


message 6: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) I can't say I had any sympathy for Gary during, or after this section. He's an unreliable narrator for a reason. There's nothing really that she does that's negative if you look at what she actually says or does, it's all in Gary's head. And anything you can really infer as negative behavior again looks fairly reasonable if you remember that we're coming into the family late, so she's certainly responding based upon previous events to some extent.


message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver It seems as if she did actually lie about how/when she hurt her back, and she does exaggerate how much it hurts, and whenever he wants to discuss something she does not want to talk about she uses his depression as a way of changing the subject.

While Gary may be over exaggerating the degree of her plotting against him and her behavior, and the accusations of her ease dropping, and her plots of actively trying to turn the children against him may be in his own head.

But I cannot say that Caroline is acting in a completely reasonable way compared to him. If you ask me, I would say they are both acting in a rather childish manner.

I may not altogether agree with all of Gary's behavior, and admit he has his share of the responsibility and his own flaws and mistakes, and maybe he really is suffering from paranoia, but Caroline just gets under my skin.


message 8: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments Will wrote: "I can't say I had any sympathy for Gary during, or after this section. He's an unreliable narrator for a reason. There's nothing really that she does that's negative if you look at what she actuall..."

I completely agree. He does start off appearing to be a sympathetic character, but this fades as his reactions become more violent and his paranoia continues to be unsubstantiated.


message 9: by Silver (new)

Silver Kevin wrote: "Will wrote: "I can't say I had any sympathy for Gary during, or after this section. He's an unreliable narrator for a reason. There's nothing really that she does that's negative if you look at wha..."

I have not quite finished this section yet, so maybe my opinion will change on Gary once I have completed this chapter.


message 10: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I do sympathize with Gary, even though I do not find him likeable. Even if we assume that he's paranoid and that he is seeing Caroline's behavior in the worst possible light, there is no way to view everything she does as reasonable or neutral. Letting a kid install cameras to keep the family under 24 hour surveillance, when the other adult under surveillance objects, is unreasonable and very strange.


message 11: by Silver (last edited Jun 14, 2012 11:12AM) (new)

Silver Also her getting mad a Gary for punishing Caleb for destroying the reindeer figurine, seemed less than reasonable. Even if she did hate the figurine, and did not want it, should one really encourage there kids that it is ok to destroy things which do not belong to them? Not to mention all her crazy new agey parenting books she has lying around the house.

And than there was the whole incident in which she would not leave the house to pick up her son because there was an unknown car parked on the street, whom she became convinced was someone waiting to break into her house, because someone stole a sign. While it is one thing to be cautious and aware, her reaction in that circumstance seemed a little over the top and kind of crazy.


message 12: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I had forgotten some of those examples. Caroline seems to be in need of psychiatric intervention herself. The way she keeps telling Gary he is depressed and unreasonable, it's almost like she is "gaslighting" him.


message 13: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) Uh, people get afraid. Men forget (or never think) about how many of life's circumstances are more threatening than they might be for somebody like myself, a non-small bearded male with years of rough living under his belt. Her response might have been towards the extreme, but I've seen plenty of non-crazy women get pretty scared by things, I don't accuse them of being unbalanced.

And the encouragement of Caleb has nothing to do with surveillance or Gary, but everything to do with trying to nurture her children, esp. in a household where she fears her husband is very seriously clinically depressed, let's remember his doctor has concerns this way as well.

So she reads non-standard parenting books? That's hardly a crime. Perhaps somebody thinks you're a crazy post-modernist for reading the Corrections? Or an unbalanced cultist for giving 5 stars to books about demons, secret cults, and vampires? Or a wack job Conservative for loving Ayn Rand?

Of course not! I'm fairly liberal and I love Ayn Rand's novels too, and nobody should be judged by what they read, even fictional characters. Ah, you say, but it's precisely because she's fictional that we as readers must read more into her books, because clearly the author isn't telling us what she's reading by accident! But if I recall, there's three books mentioned, and only two has any details other than the title, and one of which Gary found the central idea persuasive but depressing. The title of the third seems like a normal sounding book to me, unless you consider any parenting book to be crazy and new-agey.

There's almost NO reaction exhibited by Gary that seems normal and/or proportional. Add to this the rampant paranoia (Mountain-Biking with kids, anyone?) and self-medication (drinking), and you've frankly got a depressive case that frankly we might consider chiding Mr. Franzen for the lack of subtlety in his characterization...except for the fact that we're having a discussion about whether or not Gary is reasonable, so kudos to Mr. Franzen.

Frankly at this point, I'm not sure what else he could possibly do other than make Gary wear a shirt with an arrow pointing up that reads, "I'm with Depressed".


message 14: by Silver (new)

Silver Will wrote: So she reads non-standard parenting books? That's hardly a crime. Perhaps somebody thinks you're a crazy post-modernist for reading the Corrections? Or an unbalanced cultist for giving 5 stars to books about demons, secret cults, and vampires? Or a wack job Conservative for loving Ayn Rand?ro..."

I make no claims in regards to my own sanity and stability. I am the first one to admit to being a far cry from normal, I am eccentric with a laundry list of personality disorders.

I think one of the reasons why I am so inclined to Gary is because on some level I can relate to him and some of the things he says are just so me. There have been a few remarks he has made, that I thought were just so spot on, and that I completely agree with it. Like his declaration of not wanting to talk about Christmas in March, June, or August. I am exactly the same way, after January and before November I cannot abide by any mention of anything to do with Christmas. I cringed a little bit when I realized that this book was going to be set (at least partially) around Christmas time.

Gary may not be perfect, and I do not deny he has his problems and I do not agree with everything he says or does or how he acts all the time (though I cannot deny that there is something about his character that I find more amusing than the others) but at the same time, I just cannot see Caroline here as being completely blameless, innocent, and all together reasonable herself. I cannot see Caroline as being a total victim. I think both parties have culpability.

Is it really rational of her to be completely unwilling to even attempt to have a mature adult conversation about going to St. Jude's for Christmas? Whenever he mentions she just throws a bunch of accusations in his face, and adamantly refuses to do it, and will not attempt to listen to anything has to say, or have any actual discussion about it.

She may have her reasons for not wanting to go and she may not like her in-laws, but I am pretty sure part of being in a marriage means being willing to compromise now and than. My sister doesn't like her in-laws, and has very good reason for not wanting to her mother-in-laws house, but she still does it, every other year, but Caroline will not go even one single time?


message 15: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) Well, the book states they DID, but after some terrible experiences, they had agreed to not go again, which he backslides on. And rampant paranoia and emotional binge drinking are problems....

The unwillingness to discuss is based on past history and agreements and disagreements. And every year, she has them come to HER house, so it's not as though she's withholding contact.


message 16: by Silver (new)

Silver Will wrote: "Well, the book states they DID, but after some terrible experiences, they had agreed to not go again, which he backslides on. And rampant paranoia and emotional binge drinking are problems....

The..."


Under the cicumstances I do not see as Gary being that unresonable in wanting to make an exception to the rule this one time. They are getting old, would it really kill Caroline to agree to fulfill Enid's wish and spend Christmas at St. Judes, at least one more time before Enid and Alfred die? Or end up having to move out of the house?

While her unwillingness to attempt to have a mature adult conversation about something might be based upon past history, it still seems rather childish on her part. You cannot have a relationship if you do not have any form of communication and if one party simply refuses to talk about anything of which they find unpleasant. She may have her reasons, but it does not seem as if it is at all producing or helpful in the relationship. I don't see how that approach really is going to resolve anything.

I do not see how her simply drilling into him how depressed he is every time he does bring up a subject that she does not want to discuss is all that supportive or helpful. It does not seem as if Caroline's attitude and approach is being very beneficial to Gary's depression.

She seems to be antagonistic and confrontational about it, and only making things worse.


message 17: by Kevin (last edited Jun 14, 2012 01:54PM) (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments Silver wrote: "Will wrote: "Well, the book states they DID, but after some terrible experiences, they had agreed to not go again, which he backslides on. And rampant paranoia and emotional binge drinking are prob..."

I agree that Caroline doesn't handle the issue concerning Christmas perfectly, but to say that she is the one being childish refuses to see that Gary is not conducting a conversation like an adult either.

Gary explicitly states that he is waging emotional warfare. I can imagine being in Caroline's position, where someone I care about is arguing issues like the cause of a backache every minute or two for I forget how long. That would be rather terrifying to hear from someone who is so obviously mentally unstable. How is someone supposed to talk to him?

Yes, Caroline could have conceded that she hurt her back playing soccer, but we don't even know if that was true or not. And what would it have accomplished anyway. She could have agreed to one last Christmas right away, but the constant barrage on this topic and the aggressive nature of the arguments would not be an easy way to have a well reasoned discussion.

I just have a hard time rationalizing any sympathy for Gary.


message 18: by Silver (new)

Silver Kevin wrote: "I can imagine being in Caroline's position, where someone I care about is arguing issues like the cause of a backache every minute or two for I forget how long. That would be rather terrifying to hear from someone who is so obviously mentally unstable. How is someone supposed to talk to him?
"


And for my part, I can imagine being in Gary's position, in which I knew my significant other was lying to me about how they hurt their back, and trying to falsely lay the blame elsewhere and I would be pretty peeved about it, and I probably would not let it go so easily and would want to make them confess to the truth.

And how do we know that there is not some grounds of reality in Gary's paranoia? I cannot help but think of the expression, "just because you are paranoid doesn't mean it isn't true." For all we know Gary's paranoia could be born out of Caroline's past behavior and treatment towards him.

He expresses concern about her eavesdropping upon him and alludes to the fact that it has been a problem with her in the past. Do we really know if Gary is just being completely paranoid and imagining that she is eavesdropping? How do we know that Caroline doesn't really have a history of eavesdropping on her husbands conversations?

Or the whole surveillance thing, is Caroline truly just trying to support her son's creative endeavors? I myself cannot help but to wonder if indeed there is not some truth to the fact that she wants to use Caleb's project to spy upon her husband. And while I admit that Gary does have a drinking problem, I still question the ethics of his wife arranging to put up surveillance upon him and spy on him.

And even supposing that he support of Caleb's surveillance idea is completely innocuous, she still went behind her husband's back and granted permission to Caleb to order the cameras and put them up when she knew that Gary did like the idea.

Than at the end, when Gary finally admits that he is depressed and gives Caroline her way and recants the trip to St. Jude's, Caroline suddenly becomes a loving and supporting wife again. Makes me wonder if it is not a pattern of behavior of hers, when her husband proposes something she doesn't like, she brow beats him until he breaks down and gives into her.


message 19: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) This sounds bad, I know, and for that, I'll make the rare apology in advance:

But I'm starting to worry about Silver!

Are You Depressed?

lol.

Seriously though, it's clear we're never going to see eye-to-eye on the Gary thing. We'll probably devolve into terrible comments on the subject shortly, and therefor I decline to discuss the fictitious gentleman further. Or Gary either.

That's a joke, btw...I'll totally discuss Silver...

ok, that's yet another joke.


message 20: by Silver (new)

Silver Will wrote: "This sounds bad, I know, and for that, I'll make the rare apology in advance:

But I'm starting to worry about Silver!

Are You Depressed?

lol.



Seriously though, it's clear we're never going to s..."


Hahaha, discussing me could prove to be quite frightening. And by the way I am not a gentleman, I am not so very gentle lady.


message 21: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I agree with Silver. I can see why Gary feels like she is "targeting" his mom. If the expensive carved reindeer had been from Caroline's family, I suspect it would have been treated differently. The reason it's so important to Gary to clarify when Caroline hurt her back is that Caroline is making the injury into his mother's fault for calling on the phone. There is plenty of silliness and pettyness on both sides in this ongoing quarrel, and it's a very good depiction of the way parties who have been fighting for years have elevated their quarrels to something like ritual. I do think it is understandable, though, that Gary is upset when his kid demonstrates total disregard for the values Gary grew up with (respect for the property of others, respect for others' privacy, respect for adults), and Caroline takes the kid's side.


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