Welcome to our discussion of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen! I’ve gotten as far as page 238 in my edition, the beginning of the section entitled “At Sea.” If you’re not reading along but have previously read The Corrections and want to share your two cents, that’s fine by me. Please warn of spoilers (if there are any in this book) if you include them in your comment.
The Corrections is my first experience reading Franzen, and I didn’t entirely know what to expect. I’ve read lots of passages from Freedom lately that bloggers have included in their reviews, but I think Franzen comes across differently in novel form than he does in a few short lines. There are things I’m liking about The Corrections, but also things I’m not liking.
I have to give Franzen credit for his ability to capture in words with astonishing precision the actions and thoughts of his characters, the nature of their interactions, and the state of their surroundings. I was struck by this ability from the beginning, in the “St. Jude” section in which Franzen describes Enid and Alfred’s home. The language he uses is just spot-on.
But the characters themselves feel, to me, like stereotypes. They might be subtly nuanced, but they’re subtly nuanced the way you’d expect their sort of characters to be. You might not be able to predict what, exactly, will happen, but you know how each character will most likely react because that’s what his or her character type always does in similar situations.
I also don’t like any of the characters. Not a single one. Rather than caring about one or several of them and rooting for them, when reading The Corrections I feel a bit like I’m watching an ant farm with a spectacularly articulate running commentary. On top of that, I don’t get the feeling Franzen cares at all about his characters. He’s like the kid shaking up the ant farm and poking at its inhabitants just to see what they’ll do, and then narrating the whole thing for the reader.
Finally, I’m kind of annoyed by the lack of breaks. No chapters, fine, but at least throw in a convenient stopping point every ten or twenty pages! I’ve taken to using a sticky note to mark where in the text I’ve stopped.
So yes, mixed feelings so far. I’m happy I’m finally reading something by Jonathan Franzen, as I feel it’s something I need to do. At this point, though, I’m not sure I’ll end up being a Franzen fan.
How is The Corrections going for you? If you’ve read Freedom, how does it compare?