The Corrections BOOK review

Book Reviews
The Corrections BOOK review
Sep 15, 2001, 22:13

THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen; Farrar Straus Giroux, 2001

The controversy Franzen stirred up when he declined Oprah's invitation to make The Corrections part of her book club did nothing but vault this overstuffed family saga into the New York Times best seller list and make the author the target of envious writers all over the country. If , in fact, Oprah's book selections are on a level of The Corrections, count me as uninformed. In any event, the story is about the Lambert family, Alfred and Enid, and their three, maladjusted, grown children, Gary, Chip, and Denise. Alfred's health is declining, and it is Enid's wish to have one last Christmas together as a family in St. Jude, a midwestern city which seems to be based upon the author's hometown of St. Louis. Gary and Denise live in Philadelphia, and are both successful; Gary as a portfolio manager and Denise as a Chef. Chip was a university professor but now has aspirations to be a screenwriter. The novel opens with Al and Enid visiting Chip in New York, but Chip is immediately distracted and bails on his parents, leaving a visiting Denise to deal with the parents. This unpredictability continues throughout the book, and Franzen is nothing if not a dramatic literary stylist. And yet, I became exasperated by the digressions that Franzen takes the individual Lamberts down. For example, Chip becomes part of a scheme in Lithuania in which the country itself becomes an investment, and as such, a vehicle to defraud investors. Al and Enid go on a cruise and meet other distasteful seniors. In fact, no one is very likable in The Corrections and for this, I think the novel stumbles as a morality tale. There must be some light with the dark, and while there is absurdity here that provokes out loud laughter, there's too much verbiage and distraction to make it compelling all the way through. In recent months after the publication of this title Franzen wrote a heartbreaking account of his father's struggle with Alzheimer's, and also quite eloquently about his experience as a literary star and decision to shun the spotlight as an Oprah author. If he could've shown the same discipline with The Corrections, my recommendation would be unequivocal.

-Wade Iverson

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