Sympathetic Stupid

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Corrections: Jonathan Franzen

I was put off by the 'Oprah's Book Club' logo on the front of the book, but that's definitely an unfair, Pavlovian reaction.

It's just as well I overcame it. This is a magnificent book. It's a big portrait of an American family. There are five main characters, each getting their own section and story, and Franzen finds all of them with perfection. It's the story of a chunk of the life of Enid and Alfred Lambert, and their three children, Gary, Chip and Denise. Nothing too outlandish occurs; it's a simple plot, very well executed.

The plot, and the characters, really seem to be hooks on which Franzen can hang a scathing criticism of modern relationships and capitalism and prescription drugs and keeping people alive. But it's all done so well that I never felt he was too preachy or didactic. He writes decent dialogue, but it's the inner thoughts and feelings that he skewers. The bits portraying headlong flight through a rollercoaster of emotion are unputdownable.

A really satisfying read, despite Oprah's recommendation.