The Corrections

The Corrections

by Jonathan Franzen


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Winner of the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man-or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594020202
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 09/01/2002
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 31,048
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Franzen is the author of The Twenty-Seventh City, Strong Motion, and the essay collection How to Be Alone. He has been named one of the Granta 20 Best Novelists under 40 and is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and Harper's. He lives in New York City.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Western Springs, Illinois


B.A., Swarthmore College, 1981; studied as a Fulbright scholar at Freie Universität in Berlin

Read an Excerpt

The Corrections

By Jonathan Franzen

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2001 Jonathan Franzen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-2861-8



THE MADNESS of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen. The sun low in the sky, a minor light, a cooling star. Gust after gust of disorder. Trees restless, temperatures falling, the whole northern religion of things coming to an end. No children in the yards here. Shadows lengthened on yellowing zoysia. Red oaks and pin oaks and swamp white oaks rained acorns on houses with no mortgage. Storm windows shuddered in the empty bedrooms. And the drone and hiccup of a clothes dryer, the nasal contention of a leaf blower, the ripening of local apples in a paper bag, the smell of the gasoline with which Alfred Lambert had cleaned the paintbrush from his morning painting of the wicker love seat.

Three in the afternoon was a time of danger in these gerontocratic suburbs of St. Jude. Alfred had awakened in the great blue chair in which he'd been sleeping since lunch. He'd had his nap and there would be no local news until five o'clock. Two empty hours were a sinus in which infections bred. He struggled to his feet and stood by the Ping-Pong table, listening in vain for Enid.

Ringing throughout the house was an alarm bell that no one but Alfred and Enid could hear directly. It was the alarm bell of anxiety. It was like one of those big cast-iron dishes with an electric clapper that send schoolchildren into the street in fire drills. By now it had been ringing for so many hours that the Lamberts no longer heard the message of "bell ringing" but, as with any sound that continues for so long that you have the leisure to learn its component sounds (as with any word you stare at until it resolves itself into a string of dead letters), instead heard a clapper rapidly striking a metallic resonator, not a pure tone but a granular sequence of percussions with a keening overlay of overtones; ringing for so many days that it simply blended into the background except at certain early-morning hours when one or the other of them awoke in a sweat and realized that a bell had been ringing in their heads for as long as they could remember; ringing for so many months that the sound had given way to a kind of metasound whose rise and fall was not the beating of compression waves but the much, much slower waxing and waning of their consciousness of the sound. Which consciousness was particularly acute when the weather itself was in an anxious mood. Then Enid and Alfred — she on her knees in the dining room opening drawers, he in the basement surveying the disastrous Ping-Pong table — each felt near to exploding with anxiety.

The anxiety of coupons, in a drawer containing candles in designer autumn colors. The coupons were bundled in a rubber band, and Enid was realizing that their expiration dates (often jauntily circled in red by the manufacturer) lay months and even years in the past: that these hundred-odd coupons, whose total face value exceeded sixty dollars (potentially one hundred twenty dollars at the Chiltsville supermarket that doubled coupons), had all gone bad. Tilex, sixty cents off. Excedrin PM, a dollar off. The dates were not even close. The dates were historical. The alarm bell had been ringing for years.

She pushed the coupons back in among the candles and shut the drawer. She was looking for a letter that had come by Registered mail some days ago. Alfred had heard the mailman knock on the door and had shouted, "Enid! Enid!" so loudly that he couldn't hear her shouting back, "Al, I'm getting it!" He'd continued to shout her name, coming closer and closer, and because the sender of the letter was the Axon Corporation, 24 East Industrial Serpentine, Schwenksville, PA, and because there were aspects of the Axon situation that Enid knew about and hoped that Alfred didn't, she'd quickly stashed the letter somewhere within fifteen feet of the front door. Alfred had emerged from the basement bellowing like a piece of earth-moving equipment, "There's somebody at the door!" and she'd fairly screamed, "The mailman! The mailman!" and he'd shaken his head at the complexity of it all.

Enid felt sure that her own head would clear if only she didn't have to wonder, every five minutes, what Alfred was up to. But, try as she might, she couldn't get him interested in life. When she encouraged him to take up his metallurgy again, he looked at her as if she'd lost her mind. When she asked whether there wasn't some yard work he could do, he said his legs hurt. When she reminded him that the husbands of her friends all had hobbies (Dave Schumpert his stained glass, Kirby Root his intricate chalets for nesting purple finches, Chuck Meisner his hourly monitoring of his investment portfolio), Alfred acted as if she were trying to distract him from some great labor of his. And what was that labor? Repainting the porch furniture? He'd been repainting the love seat since Labor Day. She seemed to recall that the last time he'd painted the furniture he'd done the love seat in two hours. Now he went to his workshop morning after morning, and after a month she ventured in to see how he was doing and found that all he'd painted of the love seat was the legs.

He seemed to wish that she would go away. He said that the brush had got dried out, that that was what was taking so long. He said that scraping wicker was like trying to peel a blueberry. He said that there were crickets. She felt a shortness of breath then, but perhaps it was only the smell of gasoline and of the dampness of the workshop that smelled like urine (but could not possibly be urine). She fled upstairs to look for the letter from Axon.

Six days a week several pounds of mail came through the slot in the front door, and since nothing incidental was allowed to pile up downstairs — since the fiction of living in this house was that no one lived here — Enid faced a substantial tactical challenge. She didn't think of herself as a guerrilla, but a guerrilla was what she was. By day she ferried matériel from depot to depot, often just a step ahead of the governing force. By night, beneath a charming but too-dim sconce at a too-small table in the breakfast nook, she staged various actions: paid bills, balanced checkbooks, attempted to decipher Medicare co-payment records and make sense of a threatening Third Notice from a medical lab that demanded immediate payment of $0.22 while simultaneously showing an account balance of $0.00 carried forward and thus indicating that she owed nothing and in any case offering no address to which remittance might be made. It would happen that the First and Second Notices were underground somewhere, and because of the constraints under which Enid waged her campaign she had only the dimmest sense of where those other Notices might be on any given evening. She might suspect, perhaps, the family-room closet, but the governing force, in the person of Alfred, would be watching a network newsmagazine at a volume thunderous enough to keep him awake, and he had every light in the family room burning, and there was a non-negligible possibility that if she opened the closet door a cascade of catalogues and House Beautifuls and miscellaneous Merrill Lynch statements would come toppling and sliding out, incurring Alfred's wrath. There was also the possibility that the Notices would not be there, since the governing force staged random raids on her depots, threatening to "pitch" the whole lot of it if she didn't take care of it, but she was too busy dodging these raids to ever quite take care of it, and in the succession of forced migrations and deportations any lingering semblance of order was lost, and so the random Nordstrom shopping bag that was camped behind a dust ruffle with one of its plastic handles semi-detached would contain the whole shuffled pathos of a refugee existence — non-consecutive issues of Good Housekeeping, black-and-white snapshots of Enid in the 1940s, brown recipes on high-acid paper that called for wilted lettuce, the current month's telephone and gas bills, the detailed First Notice from the medical lab instructing co-payers to ignore subsequent billings for less than fifty cents, a complimentary cruise ship photo of Enid and Alfred wearing leis and sipping beverages from hollow coconuts, and the only extant copies of two of their children's birth certificates, for example.

Although Enid's ostensible foe was Alfred, what made her a guerrilla was the house that occupied them both. Its furnishings were of the kind that brooked no clutter. There were chairs and tables by Ethan Allen. Spode and Waterford in the breakfront. Obligatory ficuses, obligatory Norfolk pines. Fanned copies of Architectural Digest on a glass-topped coffee table. Touristic plunder — enamelware from China, a Viennese music box that Enid out of a sense of duty and mercy every so often wound up and raised the lid of. The tune was "Strangers in the Night."

Unfortunately, Enid lacked the temperament to manage such a house, and Alfred lacked the neurological wherewithal. Alfred's cries of rage on discovering evidence of guerrilla actions — a Nordstrom bag surprised in broad daylight on the basement stairs, nearly precipitating a tumble — were the cries of a government that could no longer govern. He'd lately developed a knack for making his printing calculator spit columns of meaningless eight-digit figures. After he devoted the better part of an afternoon to figuring the cleaning woman's social security payments five different times and came up with four different numbers and finally just accepted the one number ($635.78) that he'd managed to come up with twice (the correct figure was $70.00), Enid staged a nighttime raid on his filing cabinet and relieved it of all tax files, which might have improved household efficiency had the files not found their way into a Nordstrom bag with some misleadingly ancient Good Housekeepings concealing the more germane documents underneath, which casualty of war led to the cleaning woman's filling out the forms herself, with Enid merely writing the checks and Alfred shaking his head at the complexity of it all.

It's the fate of most Ping-Pong tables in home basements eventually to serve the ends of other, more desperate games. After Alfred retired he appropriated the eastern end of the table for his banking and correspondence. At the western end was the portable color TV on which he'd intended to watch the local news while sitting in his great blue chair but which was now fully engulfed by Good Housekeepings and the seasonal candy tins and baroque but cheaply made candle holders that Enid never quite found time to transport to the Nearly New consignment shop. The Ping-Pong table was the one field on which the civil war raged openly. At the eastern end Alfred's calculator was ambushed by floral print pot-holders and souvenir coasters from the Epcot Center and a device for pitting cherries which Enid had owned for thirty years and never used, while he, in turn, at the western end, for absolutely no reason that Enid could ever fathom, ripped to pieces a wreath made of pinecones and spray-painted filberts and brazil nuts.

To the east of the Ping-Pong table was the workshop that housed Alfred's metallurgical lab. The workshop was now home to a colony of mute, dust-colored crickets, which, when startled, would scatter across the room like a handful of dropped marbles, some of them misfiring at crazy angles, others toppling over with the weight of their own copious protoplasm. They popped all too easily, and cleanup took more than one Kleenex. Enid and Alfred had many afflictions which they believed to be extraordinary, outsized — shameful — and the crickets were one of them.

The gray dust of evil spells and the cobwebs of enchantment thickly cloaked the old electric arc furnace, and the jars of exotic rhodium and sinister cadmium and stalwart bismuth, and the hand-printed labels browned by the vapors from a glass-stoppered bottle of aqua regia, and the quad-ruled notebook in which the latest entry in Alfred's hand dated from a time, fifteen years ago, before the betrayals had begun. Something as daily and friendly as a pencil still occupied the random spot on the workbench where Alfred had laid it in a different decade; the passage of so many years imbued the pencil with a kind of enmity. Asbestos mitts hung from a nail beneath two certificates of U.S. patents, the frames warped and sprung by dampness. On the hood of a binocular microscope lay big chips of peeled paint from the ceiling. The only dust-free objects in the room were the wicker love seat, a can of Rust-Oleum and some brushes, and a couple of Yuban coffee cans which despite increasingly strong olfactory evidence Enid chose not to believe were filling up with her husband's urine, because what earthly reason could he have, with a nice little half-bathroom not twenty feet away, for peeing in a Yuban can?

To the west of the Ping-Pong table was Alfred's great blue chair. The chair was overstuffed, vaguely gubernatorial. It was made of leather, but it smelled like the inside of a Lexus. Like something modern and medical and impermeable that you could wipe the smell of death off easily, with a damp cloth, before the next person sat down to die in it.

The chair was the only major purchase Alfred had ever made without Enid's approval. When he'd traveled to China to confer with Chinese railroad engineers, Enid had gone along and the two of them had visited a rug factory to buy a rug for their family room. They were unaccustomed to spending money on themselves, and so they chose one of the least expensive rugs, with a simple blue design from the Book of Changes on a solid field of beige. A few years later, when Alfred retired from the Midland Pacific Railroad, he set about replacing the old cow-smelling black leather armchair in which he watched TV and took his naps. He wanted something really comfortable, of course, but after a lifetime of providing for others he needed more than just comfort: he needed a monument to this need. So he went, alone, to a non-discount furniture store and picked out a chair of permanence. An engineer's chair. A chair so big that even a big man got lost in it; a chair designed to bear up under heavy stress. And because the blue of its leather vaguely matched the blue in the Chinese rug, Enid had no choice but to suffer its deployment in the family room.

Soon, however, Alfred's hands were spilling decaffeinated coffee on the rug's beige expanses, and wild grandchildren were leaving berries and crayons underfoot, and Enid began to feel that the rug was a mistake. It seemed to her that in trying to save money in life she had made many mistakes like this. She reached the point of thinking it would have been better to buy no rug than to buy this rug. Finally, as Alfred's naps deepened toward enchantment, she grew bolder. Her own mother had left her a tiny inheritance years ago. Interest had been added to principal, certain stocks had performed rather well, and now she had an income of her own. She reconceived the family room in greens and yellows. She ordered fabrics. A paperhanger came, and Alfred, who was napping temporarily in the dining room, leaped to his feet like a man with a bad dream.

"You're redecorating again?"

"It's my own money," Enid said. "This is how I'm spending it."

"And what about the money I made? What about the work I did?"

This argument had been effective in the past — it was, so to speak, the constitutional basis of the tyranny's legitimacy — but it didn't work now. "That rug is nearly ten years old, and we'll never get the coffee stains out," Enid answered.

Alfred gestured at his blue chair, which under the paperhanger's plastic dropcloths looked like something you might deliver to a power station on a flatbed truck. He was trembling with incredulity, unable to believe that Enid could have forgotten this crushing refutation of her arguments, this overwhelming impediment to her plans. It was as if all the unfreedom in which he'd spent his seven decades of life were embodied in this six-year-old but essentially brand-new chair. He was grinning, his face aglow with the awful perfection of his logic.

"And what about the chair, then?" he said. "What about the chair?"

Enid looked at the chair. Her expression was merely pained, no more. "I never liked that chair."

This was probably the most terrible thing she could have said to Alfred. The chair was the only sign he'd ever given of having a personal vision of the future. Enid's words filled him with such sorrow — he felt such pity for the chair, such solidarity with it, such astonished grief at its betrayal — that he pulled off the dropcloth and sank into its arms and fell asleep.


Excerpted from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Copyright © 2001 Jonathan Franzen. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents



Reading Group Guide

The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, an unflinchingly honest yet ultimately redemptive chronicle of an American family. We hope they will help you approach the complex story of the Lamberts, which takes a hard look at the role of family in contemporary society and questions the effects of materialism in late-twentieth century America.

1. Consider the atmosphere of suburban St. Jude (named for the patron saint of hopeless causes) in comparison to the more sophisticated surroundings of Philadelphia and New York. Why has the Lamberts' neighborhood evolved into a gerontocratic refuge? "What Gary hated most about the Midwest was how unpampered and unprivileged he felt in it" (p. 178). What negative and positive qualities are attributed to the Midwest? How are the characters shaped by the cities or towns they live in?

2. What is the significance of "one last Christmas"? Is Enid's obsession with the holidays predictable for a mother of her generation or is it, as Gary fears, "a symptom of a larger malaise" (p. 148)?

3. Why does it take so long for the Lamberts to acknowledge the seriousness of Alfred's illness? Is Al's deteriorating mental health solely a result of Parkinson's disease? How are his physical deterioration and mental decline linked? "Irresponsibility and undiscipline were the bane of his existence, and it was another instance of that Devil's logic that his own untimely affliction should consist of his body's refusal to obey him" (p. 67). Why are these ailments especially humiliating for Alfred?

4. Novels written in the nineteenth century often have plots with many characters and story lines. Novels from the 1980s and 1990s often have spare plots with minimalist characters. What is the book's relation to these two models? Which elements of the book's style seem especially modern and which more traditional?

5. What role does corporate America play in this story? Consider the Midland Pacific takeover, Al's connections with the Axon Corporation, and Brian's dealings with the W—— Corporation. What are the lessons of Chip's Consuming Narratives class? Are they accurate and relevant? How should we view Melissa's critique of them (pp. 42–44)?

6. What is the source of Gary and Caroline's marital problems? Whose version of the truth do you believe? Why does Gary feel so alienated from Caleb and Aaron? What draws him to Jonah? Compare this family with the glimpses we have of the young Lamberts. In what ways is Gary different, as a father, from Alfred?

7. What is your impression of Enid and Alfred's marriage? Which version of their marriage do you believe—Enid's image of Al as a pessimistic brooder or Al's image of Enid as an unrealistic optimist? In what ways do Enid's capacity for hope and Alfred's low expectations manifest themselves? How do their temperamental differences play out in the course of the narrative?

8. "The family was the house's soul" (p. 269). Analyze the symbolism of the Lambert home in St. Jude. How does its meaning change over the years? Consider Enid's stockpiles of expired coupons and Al's catalog of compulsive repairs. Compare this home with the other domestic spaces in the book. How have the Lambert children reacted to the clutter and careful economy of the house they grew up in?

9. How would you define the members of the Lambert family based on their traits? Which are shared traits and which are specific to an individual? How would these characters describe themselves? If "who a person was was what a person wanted" (p. 539), who are the Lamberts?

10. Discuss the alliances that formed in the Lambert family after the children left home. What occurrences might account for Denise's loyalty to Al and for Chip and Gary's sympathy for Enid? How do these alliances shift during the course of the novel?

11. Why does Denise choose to lose her virginity to Don Armour? Which qualities of her co- worker simultaneously attract and repel her? Why does Al sacrifice his job for Denise's privacy?

12. What is the significance of the title The Corrections? How does the idea of "corrections" play out during the course of the story? What does "What made correction possible also doomed it" (p. 281) mean?

13. Why is Denise drawn to both Robin and Brian? How attractive are they as characters? How does Denise's attraction to Robin initially manifest itself? Why is she unable to make a life with Robin?

14. What is revealed about the dynamics of the young Lambert family during the liver dinner? When Al finds Chip asleep at the dinner table, what upsets him more: concern for his son or disgust with Enid? Do we know the source of Enid's neglect? "There was something almost tasty and almost sexy in letting the annoying boy be punished by her husband" (p. 263). To what extent are the book's children shaped by their upbringing, and to what extent is their character predetermined?

15. How do technology and consumerism infiltrate the lives of the characters? Are cell phones and the spy gadgets that Caleb craves symptoms of a problem in our society? How does consumerism relate to the problem of what Gary calls anhedonia—"a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts" (p. 165)?

16. What do Chip's relationships with women reveal about his character? How does his attitude toward women change over the course of the novel? Considering the details of his earlier relationships, does it seem probable that his marriage to Alison Schulman will survive? How did his time in Lithuania prepare Chip to deal with Alfred's decline and death?

17. Why does Denise tell Chip not to pay back the money she has lent him? What does the use of the word "forgive" suggest in Denise's plea to her brother?

18. How would you describe Franzen's narrative style? How deeply does he sympathize with his characters? Does the tone of the novel change? Examine the evolution of Enid's character, from housewife to the liberated woman at the end of the novel who feels that "nothing could kill her hope now" (p. 568). Is there evidence that her liberation is not entirely a good thing?

19. How does the issue of class play out during the course of the novel? In what different ways does class drive Enid's behavior on the cruise and propel Denise's decision to sleep with Don Armour? How does concern over class status affect Gary and Caroline or Brian and Robin?

20. Is Alfred's death the key to Enid's happiness? How does the quality of her life change once Al is hospitalized? What reaction do his children have to his death? Are we meant to believe that their father's death is the catalyst for their "corrections"? For how much of the unhappiness in the Lambert household was Al responsible?

21. Are elements of the Lambert family universal characteristics of the American family? How do the world in general and family life in particular change during the half century that the novel spans? In what ways is life better now than when the Lambert children were young? In what ways is it worse?

22. Which character has undergone the most fundamental change? Is the change positive or negative? Have any of the characters evolved enough for their "corrections" to endure? Are these corrections deliberate, or are they the result of outside occurrences that force the characters to change?

23. Discuss the different moral codes members of the Lambert family adhere to. Consider Enid's fear of her children's "immorality," Gary's obsession with Caroline's dishonesty, Alfred's refusal to engage in insider trading, Denise's rage at Gary for having betrayed the sibling code of honor, and Chip's animus against the W—— Corporation and big business in general. Which of these judgments seem most valid? Does the book favor one moral view over another?

24. How does America's long-standing fascination with the notion of progress manifest itself in the story of each character? How does the novel, in its entirety, stand in relation to the American ideas of self-improvement as well as social and technological progress?

Customer Reviews

The Corrections 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 537 reviews.
Lisa_RR_H More than 1 year ago
I suppose it's a reflection of my bourgeois middlebrow tastes that I didn't just hate this book but thought it badly written--Pulitzer Prize Finalist or not. It's one of those novels with an omniscient narrative with lots of Post-Modernist Stylistic Touches that Examines The Human Condition(tm)--in other words a pretentious, depressing work with unlikeable characters and turgid prose. The kind of book where paragraphs can go on for more than a page and single sentences, kept aloft with slashes, parenthesis, colons and semi-colons almost as long. (See, page 11, 17.) One with irritating affectations like referring to a fictitious school as "D-- College." (God, just make up a name already.) Every once in a while I did think there were flashes of brilliance (which is why it gets more than one star). Such as how in Part One, Enid and Alfred, an elderly Midwestern couple, are characterized through their possessions. Or in Part Two how their son Chip translates the subtext of his mother's quizzing of his girlfriend. However, not even the satiric tones could make Chip's self-absorbed academic musings bearable--maybe Franzen did that too well--I had flashbacks to the worst of my politically correct college professors. Franzen's depiction of Yuppiehood in New York City wasn't any more appealing. (And I say that as a proud native New Yorker who usually loves to see my city depicted.) I lasted till the end of the second part at page 134 because I wanted to give such a raved-about book a fair shot. By then I knew there was no way I was going to last all the way to the end at page 566 without taking it out on some innocent bystander.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Alfred Lambert was the patriarch and the disciplinarian of a family of five. However, he now suffers ignobly from Parkinson's disease and has plenty of elder care needs. His spouse Enid wants to remain loyal to her long time mate and provider, or at least her memory of him. However, she feels more like a hostage to his sickness though choosing to ignore his illness and dream about anything more uplifting to care about.

Their only daughter Denise begins a job in a hip bistro in Philadelphia. However, she puts her work in jeopardy when she begins an affair with her boss¿ spouse. The oldest son Gary struggles with depression. With the help of his wife he steps closer to the abyss of a breakdown. The youngest son Chip loses his academic job due to a student. He almost loses his life next on some fraudulent scheme in Europe. The Lambert brood appears all ready to self-destruct and yet each one keeps alive in their heart a glimmer of hope for a better future.

THE CORRECTIONS is a humorous yet extremely serious look at an American family against a backdrop of the world scene. The story line is bitter, melancholy, and yet somehow manages to be optimistic as well. Each member of the Lambert brood is a genuine individual struggling to cope with life. Though harsh in many respects, humor keeps the novel from becoming too maudlin. Jonathan Franzen, who writes a novel every decade or so, shows why he is one of the best authors with this must read classic look at the American way of life.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever since Jonathan Franzen spoke out against his book being chosen as an Oprah Book Club Selection, his rating has dropped at an unbelievable rate. Wonder why??? I have been around and read many books in my life and I am 100% serious when I say that you can without a doubt ignore any review below two stars, because it probably came from an angry Oprah fan. This book is incredible!!! It has wonderful writing, the most in-depth characters I've ever had the pleasure to read about, very witty sarcasm, and incredible references to some very obscure but profound events in history. I apologize to anyone offended, but I think that this book was a bad selection for Oprah's club, because it is well beyond what her average viewer wants or understands. It deserved the National Book Award and should go down as one of the best books of the last ten years.
April-Marie More than 1 year ago
The first 15-20 pages of this book are the most boring, tedious, and grueling. However, good news, the book becomes more accessible and enjoyable after that. In this book more than many others I have read, I felt as though I really knew all of the main characters (except maybe Chip, he seemed a little hollow and unrealistic by the end). Franzen really breathes life into every person of the Lampbert family. At times, the book took a little work and was heavily riddled with thick metaphors, but in the end, they are all worth it and only give the reader a further look into the lives and minds of the characters. I would suggest this book to almost anyone who had some determination to get through some of the thicker sections. The end is much more moving than I expected, probably because by then I had such deep understanding and sympathies for the characters. It was interesting, entertaining, and gave an intimate view of an average mid-west family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is certainly unlike any other I've read, which I find refreshing. I agree with several other reviewers in how unlikable several of the characters are-- but I don't find that to be distracting, maybe a little unrealistic. What I enjoy about this book is that it is a challenging read-- I get very annoyed with books that assume I won't see through the obvious metaphors and sentimental fluff. This certainly doesn't do that- however, I do think this author thinks too much of his own intellect. His forays into his characters' lives do little to keep my interest-- I found myself skipping entire paragraphs several times, and questioning the importance of his detailed descriptions of the Lithuanian saga, incidental characters on the cruise ship, and yes, the talking terd. It was here that I felt the author's arrogance made itself pretty apparent-- shocking for the sake of being shocking and nothing else. I was greatly disappointed on that front as it truly detracted from the book's merit. For the most part though, Franzen has an astonishing control and balance in his writing. I found myself awed at times at how accurate and believable his descriptions were without insulting my intelligence. This is a truly gifted writer who unfortunately, it all too aware of his gift.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To me this book was less about the plot and more about the struggles the characters face in going through their lives. It's not necessarily the best book I've read, but once I began this novel and understood the backrounds of each character and their personalities 'which the author goes into great detail describing' it became easier to accept that the plot drags on into nothingness 'sort of'. because life doesn't always have a plot or moral like the fairy tales of our childhood, it's just lived and the experiences are just experienced, and yet the characters grow and change and go through real emotions with everything. It's a good novel to read if you're willing to take a chance to understand how the characters progression and changes through the novel form the story.
jay_havill More than 1 year ago
Jayln Havill The book, "The Corrections", tragicomedy novel written by Jonathan Franzen, scrutinizes the way of society while telling a story of a mother trying to get her broken family together again. In this novel, Franzen uses his characters Enid, Alfred and their children Gary, Chip, and Denise as "puppets" to get many different points across in this novel. Franzen lays the pretensions, greed, self-deceptions, insecurities and folly of the Lamberts, and the greater culture, as he tells of how they believe the quick-fix comforts and profitability of today's technology based world, and avoid all accountability for himself or herself or a neighbor. Franzen gets very political in this novel and yet tells a good, interesting story. Franzen uses very interesting style, going from flashbacks to the present to help identify meaning in the present. For example in the first part of the book, he constantly goes back in Chip's past and retells situations so we are better able to understand the situation going on in the present. What is also interesting about his style is that he is telling a story of a broken family while still getting a political point across. What is also interesting in Franzen's writing is how he foreshadows. For example: when Chip and Melissa go to pick up drugs from a high school friend, there is a sticker that reminds him of the "Midland Pacific Lines" logo, where later in the novel, we learn that his father used to work for Midland Pacific Lines. It is just interesting how he ties in all of those little details to make the novel even more interesting. Each character has a different story to learn from. Gary, who is a very unhappy, paranoid businessman doesn't want to admit that he is like his father, who is clinically depressed. He tries to take antidepressants to steer away of having to admit he is depressed. But in the end, he does end up like his father. Also, Chip, who has enough problems to cover his whole family, we learn that you just can't keep running away from your problems, it results in things just getting worse. There are many different themes that you can receive from this book. You get the message that there is always hope. We get this message because throughout the whole book, we are told of how the Lamberts' lives just aren't the best, but yet Franzen still shows a glimmer of hope. Like when Enid says there is a "strange yearning sense of possibility". It seems like each character has a different story to learn from. Gary, who is a very unhappy, paranoid businessman doesn't want to admit that he is like his father, who is clinically depressed. He tries to take antidepressants to steer away of having to admit he is depressed. But in the end, he does end up like his father. Also, Chip, who has enough problems to cover his whole family, we learn that you just can't keep running away from your problems, it results in things just getting worse. I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy a challenge. You should probably be good at your economic skills and have an open mind while reading "The Corrections". This book can get complicated to read with all of the flashbacks Franzen writes, but as long as you take the time to read it slowly, you won't be disappointed.
jane1983 More than 1 year ago
It was difficult to follow and the characters were unbelievable and unlikable.
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
"The Corrections" was a very good but depressing read about a family trying to live their individual lives and maintain a semblance of a relationship as a family. Alfred is an abrasive, aging father who is diagnosed with Parkinson's and is unhappy in his retirement time. Enid is Alfred's wife, and is miserable and unfulfilled living with Alfred, in denial about his disease progression, and extremely critical of her three children, Gary, Denise, and Chip. Gary, the oldest of the three children, is in a constant battle with his wife about mental health issues. Denise, the youngest and only daughter, is in denial about her personal life as well as struggling with her position as a successful chef. Chip is a struggling screenplay writer who was fired from his job as an assistant professor at a college because of some questionable activity he was involved in. Jonathan Franzen is an excellent writer, and while I did enjoy this depressing read, I felt like the book was a little long (565 pages). However, I wasn't as disturbed by the length in "The Corrections" as I was when reading another book by Franzen, "Freedom." I thought "Freedom" could have been shortened and still been a good book, while with "The Corrections" I think the length suited the book. All in all, I'd recommend (as would Oprah, as the book is on her book club list) this book to people who like to read and can stand a long, slightly depressing novel.
Yosemite More than 1 year ago
What happens to a family when the matriarch makes her husband the scapegoat for her unhappiness? Her husband retreats and she drives her children away. And her children in turn manifest their own frstrations in varied ways, trying always to correct for the imperfections and mistakes of themselves and their parents. By turns humorous and tragic, I laughed and winced at Franzen's excellent character studies of all members of a dysfunctional, modern family. These characters will evoke recognition of someone in your own family, or someone you know, and you will remeber them long after you finish the book.
Chanel5Girl More than 1 year ago
This book is a brilliantly written and it seems Mr.Franzen put a lot of thought behind each word, sentence and theme to the book. I don't understand why or what people expect when clearly this book is intelligent and a thrill to finally read something that isn't written just because they need to put out a book for their contract. I also find it insightful and implicable in exlplaning life's undercurrent , the vibe of everyday living. I know that Oprah's books are not popular with serious readers, but if people who are intelligent and love literary books such as her picks and can relate to it's theme, it allows the experience of reading more enjoyable. I feel so bad that Mr.Franzen has received a bad rap with his books when the are pure genius! Honestly, it can't get any better than his books. It's like a secret club of people who enjoy his work. Well done Mr. Franzen.
DoreenNovak More than 1 year ago
Franzen has the unique gift of creating characters that are so outrageously diverse and spellbinding. He, like John Irving, Anne Tyler and John Steinbeck, draw the reader right into his characters' lives and when the last chapter is read, you're sorry to see it go. Outstanding!
Carolina_Book_Addict More than 1 year ago
While Franzen cannot take the place of Steinbeck in my mind, he is my favorite author. His skills are amazing and I must compare them to Steinbeck's abilities. I wanted to read Freedom and I hesitated to read The Corrections, however, Franzen blew me away with both of them. If you want insight into individual and social issues, you must read both books. I love Franzen's writing. I hope he publishes another book but I do want time to reread both of these.
nadrad More than 1 year ago
Excellent read! Seems like people will either love or hate this book. I guarantee that you'll love AND hate all the characters at the same time! Excellent work of fiction and a good view of human nature! Not sure why people would not like this book. It does not drag out ever. The pace is set well. Many of the antics of the family are quite funny. It is sad, though, to follow the decline of one of the characters who is suffering from Parkinson's.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i don't understand how people could give the book one star. even if the content offended or was, at least, not interesting, it was still brilliantly written in terms of mechanics. funny, sad, and engaging, it kept me up past my bedtime for a few nights. totally good book
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so shocked to read the harsh criticism from other readers that I felt compelled to disclose my view. This book is an absolute gem. No need for me to expatiate. Read this book. I'm convinced that there was some movement afoot among Oprah lovers to bash this book as retaliation over the author's snub of the cheesy talk-show personality.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book without hesitation after Mr. Franzen upset Oprah. I figured that anybody willing to tell her to go fly a kite would get my money. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book at all. I found it long, wordy, and not very interesting. In fact, I couldn't even finish it. Yet, many of the reviews here and elsewhere have praised it a great deal so maybe I will take another shot at it down the road. My wife is going to read it and if she thinks it's good, I'll try again for sure. One of the 'standards' I use for basic reading enjoyment is how anxious I am to get back to it. I'll take it with me and read a chapter here, a paragraph there, sit down in the evening and read for awhile, etc. With this book, I went an entire weekend without even an inkling of desire to pick it up. Sorry, Mr. Franzen. Maybe I'm being unfair but I don't think so.
Prudence Tedder 5 months ago
I loved the writing. Great characters!
llasram on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I see what all the hoopla over Franzen is about now. This is the most darkly funny novel I've read in years. It seemed like every other page made me wince and laugh out loud in sympathetic embarrassed horror. The lens of Franzen's writing leaves no flaw of his characters undisclosed, but explains those flaws so sympathetically that you can't help but understand. The ending didn't quite hit the right note for me, but the bulk of the novel is simply amazing.
artistlibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't quite explain why I give this book five stars. It seems as though every line is perfected to speak clearly while subtly suggesting more. The characters are unreal and yet totally believable. The focal point, Mom getting the family together for one last Christmas, is near absurd within the side plots and schemes of all its characters.Perhaps I felt so satisfied with this book because Franzen does what most literature does not: he presents you with the pure truth and consequences of being alive, but with enough oddball detachment that you can't feel sorry for yourself. You just nod, sigh a sad giggle, and keep living.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've avoided reading Franzen and if it weren't for my book club, I wouldn't have read this book but I was pleasantly surprised. Pleasant may not be the best word for this novel as it is an unpleasant story about a dysfunctional family and I swiftly found myself hating every character in the book. It is a credit to Franzen's writing that I was still interested in finding out what happens to them. I was particularly impressed by the opening of the book where the narrative would follow one character until he met up with someone else and then the story would rather cinematically tag along with another character. Franzen also did well at capturing the sense of dementia in the family patriarch and the spreading effect that had on the family. Still, this book is not an easy read as these are nasty, nasty people.Recommended books: No specific books, but I find parallels with the writing of Richard Russo and Jonathan Lethem.
jlouise77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This books sucked. I wish there were a more eloquent way of putting it, but there isnt. The author would take pages and pages to describe the thinking of a random person in an elevator. The story could have been condensed into a normal 200-300 page novel. Not a single character was likable, not only were they not likable, but they were despicable. And where the beginning 300+ pages were over details, towards the end of the book, he started giving normal amounts of detail and the book began to read almost bearable, it was as if he realized no one would want to read almost 600 pages of nonsense and hurried through the end. I absolutely cannot believe this was a National Bestseller!
miss_read on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On reading The Corrections in 2012, I find I liked it far less than I did when I read it back in 2001- perhaps that's partly because of how much I actively disliked Freedom. Franzen seems hellbent on letting us know how clever he is; and he is very clever, there's no denying it, but I still don't want it shoved down my throat on every page. When the writing is clear and sensitive, it's fantastic. When it tries for humour, it often misses by going too far or going on too long. As in Freedom, Franzen often gets bogged down in corporations, businesses, the connections between various corporations and 'witty' acronyms. Overall, a really good read but sometimes the author is obviously trying far too hard and could stand being taken down a peg. Or three.
wortklauberlein on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To do this book justice would require a novella-length review. The novel pivots around Enid's desire to have all three of her children and her three grandchildren together for one last Chirstmas in St. Jude, Iowa. Her husband Al's physical and mental health is rapidly deteriorating (he hallucinates rather hilariously about his feces, which are nighttime thugs). But compared with children Gary, Chip and Denise, Al is a picture of stability, courage and capability. Professor Gary has been fired from the university after succumbing to a student's charms; super chef Denise has been fired from the restaurant she helped start after having an affair with the owner's wife; banker Gary is rich, angry and depressed. Jonathan Franzen assembles each character chromosome by chromosome, building psychological portraits of complex, loving, hateful, confused, hopeful people. The reader's immediate assessment of the members of this typical crazy family shifts, flips, spins, crumbles, as their secrets, desires and actions are revealed. How easy, how impossible, they are to despise, to pity, to misunderstand, to empathize with, to care about, to love.Chip has written an unreadable screenplay about his disastrous seduction by his student. It is a tragedy th,at toward the end of "The Corrections," he realizes should be written as a farce. What Franzen has written is a comedy, a tragedy, a romance, a farce, a marvel.I listened to the Recorded Books version, in which narrator George Guidall excelled in all the parts. But read the book: If you're driving and listening to an audiobook, it's not possible to savor down the marvelous phrases and sharp insights, and your tears might make it hard to see what's ahead down the road.
neurodrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The CorrectionsJohnathan FranzenSept 5, 2010This novel, praised to the highest by all the critics, is certainly very readable, pulls you into the lives of the characters, and not at all boring. I found the subject, the turn of the millenium in the midwest, Philadelphia and New York, less that totally engrossing. I tend to prefer novels of far away places and ancient times. I saw in many scenes reflections of my own life, especially the descriptions of Gary, the older son of the Lamberts, stuck with a successful career and a common marriage. The book is comic in many scenes, but the idea of lesbian love is foreign to me, and not welcome; I prefer pretty women to prefer men. Chip, the younger, irresponsible but ultimately responsible son, betrays his early promise as a wastrel.