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[17] The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

Funny but piercing, The Corrections is a witty epitome of an American family in which the old-fashioned world of civic virtue and moral values vehemently collide with worldly greed, lust, and in-law hostility. The immediate ambience the book affords is one of depression, anxiety, and looming alarm. It poses the ultimate question that is ineluctable to all of us in an up-front manner: what life is for? Speaking under the breath, Franzen is really asking what life is for if it’s not for happiness. The novel develops in the silhouette of the idea that people who think they are happy are not really happy. The sadder scenario is the futility to gauge and to remedy this issue.

The novel begins with a call for family reunion. After almost fifty years as a wife and a mother, as her children have gone separate ways to cruel reality of their lives, Enid Lambert is determined to make changes in her life. As her husband, Alfred, loses his sanity to Parkinson’s disease, she sets her heart in bringing her family together for one last Christmas in St. Jude. She confides her plan in her daughter, Denise, though of whose immoral lifestyle, which includes pre-marital sex and affair with married men, she strongly disapproves. Alfred’s diagnosis has become Enid’s underground extension of her intelligence and persists in connecting the affliction with Denise’s announcement of her affairs to her father. Denise feels obliged to help her mother reunite the family.

Chip Lambert is the single knucklehead who is forced to resign from his teaching job shortly before securing tenure due to a subversive affair with a student that has gone backfired. Until he published this script that he claims to be lucrative, he lives on his sister’s money.

Gary Lambert is pathetically sandwiched between his repugnant wife (who calls him depressed at his mention of St. Jude and camouflages her animosity toward him as an ostensible concern for his mental health) and his parents. Gary suffers from a make-believe depression and a deepened sense of isolation that is the product his Caroline’s cunning manipulation of and forming allies with his sons in the house.

The Corrections comprises multiple layers of social niches that converge to one central theme that is not ulterior in literature: the meaning of life and the search for happiness. The circuitous musing of life’s purpose is coated with domestic drama, sexual affair, globalized greed, hands-on mental health treatment, and inescapable senility. Chip struggles with the indignity of being out of a job and being penniless; but ironically the luxury at the tip of Gary’s finger does not ensue happiness. His marriage pricks his mind and his entire life has been set up to be correction to his father’s. Chip feels misunderstood but he never notices how badly he himself has misunderstood his father, whose struggle with fraternal bonding does not hinder him from loving his son.

Peeling off the humor, openheartedness, drama and brawl, The Corrections affords sarcasm on the ineptitude to be honest with our feelings. It mocks the way our culture attaches too much importance on feelings to an incorrigible extent in which people try to correct their thoughts to improve their feelings. The novel calls for the awakening of the lost feelings in relationships that are usually rooted in family. It is poignant, brutal, and funny. It might have struck a discordant note in weathering spasm of hatred but it is, after all, a true-to-life and contiguous to certain walk of our life.

4 Responses

  1. It sounds like a rather depressing tome, but the premise is interesting.

    I just received “My Lucky Star” by Joe Keenan and hope to start it soon. “Blue Heaven” is one of my all-time favorite books. I also bought the copy of “Brokeback Mountain” that contains the short story, screenplay, and essays. Should be an interesting read.

  2. Is that the book about a guy getting a call from his ex-bf in LA for a big-money writing job? I think I saw it at the bookstore, it’s a hardbound…

    I’m still sniffling at the thought of Brokeback Mountain…it’s piercing my heart.

  3. Yes, that’s the book!

    I’ve read part of the essay about how Annie came about writing the story, and it’s really fascinating.

  4. Brilliantly written review. I can’t remember the last time I read such a well written book review on a blog.

    I tried to read this recently and really didn’t like it. So much so that for the second time this year I gave up half way through. It was still great to read such a wonderful review though

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