4 19 17 update I appreciate that so many people have liked this review and or commented on it, whether we agree or not Please know that I will not be interacting with any comments as I remember almost nothing about this novel other than the repulsion I felt toward it I cannot add anything worthwhile to a discussion or engage in any intelligent discourse unless I read it again which I think we all know I am not going to do That being said, anyone using the comments section to make a personal attack on my character or ability as a reader a decade ago, mind you , will have their comment deleted Kindly agree to disagree and move along A seemingly unending stream of word vomit.I can think of no other way to describe this thing.I really, really despised almost everything about The Corrections I finished it solely so that I could write a horrible review and have it be valid.At no single point before the last 10 pages of this 566 page monster did I feel a shred of sympathy with any of the characters There were several moments where I thought Franzen would have been better off writing dialogue for the average Joe instead of the trumped up and out of place Dawson s Creek esque vocabulary in almost every human interaction His insistence on using the 25 cent word at every turn made reading the story choppy at best aggravating and unenjoyable.I also couldn t help but see the author in a lot of his characters worst personality traits Annoying hipster lecher I m better than capitalism but still depend on it Chip Whiny too good for anyone Gary Ungrateful I m a bitch but require all your love and attention Denise The parents Alfred is the only one for whom I felt any sympathy and that didn t happen until the last dregs of the book and I think maybe even then it was a knee jerk reaction at being so close to the book being over Enid s issues rubbed me the wrong way for many reasons, not the least of which being that I could see my own mother in her which means, I suppose, that Enid was probably the most well represented character in the novel.The secondary characters were almost entirely a sorry lot with personalities to the extreme in any number of directions too smart, too stupid, too needy, too plain, too EVERYTHING.I know that I ll never understand the praise this book received from critics and readers and I m ok with that I do wish, however, that I could meet some of the people who relate it so easily to real life Meeting them, perhaps, would truly terrify me. My first Franzen.Really I don t even know how to start this review I could begin, I suppose, by discussing the pure perfection of his writing It is REALLY DAMN GOOD If I could break reviews down into little sections, he d get 10 stars for his style technique Excellent.On the other hand, I can t give this a full 5 stars Or can I Yeah, it was well written The depth of the characters and the storyline maybe just a hair short of phenomenal YetWhy do I bother with fiction I feel guilty, as if I should be learning something instead.Is the desire to read this type of fiction some sort of voyeuristic fetish Peek into some fictional character s life and say, Hell, I ve got it good Really, there is plenty of non fiction out there to get you into an attitude of gratitude right quick see books on holocaust, genocide, great depression, etc Do I, as a reader, get anything out of it at all, beyond perhaps some mindless entertainment Do I have to David Foster Wallace once said, Fiction s about what it is to be a fucking human being And you know, he s right.In The Corrections, Franzen absolutely nails not literally each member of a dysfunctional average family Mom borders on neurotic Dad is demented Kids all screwed up in their own way The following excerptHe d had the sense moments earlier that Caroline was on the verge of accusing him of being depressed and he was afraid that if the idea he was depressed gained currency, he would forefit the right to his opinions He would forefit his moral certainties every word he spoke would become a symptom of disease, he would never again win an arguementFricking BRILLIANT And real Somehow Franzen manages to put the fun in dysfunctional Far from mindless , The Corrections tunes you in to each family member and their flaws In reading, you may recognize yourself in one of the characters, stop and think, oh no I m that jerk Or, in a perhaps better scenario, say, Ha That bitch is just like my sister Whatever the case, you KNOW these people Franzen writes about You work with them God forbid, you are related to them But it is real All the imperfections, the misunderstandings, the yearning, the love, the hate It IS about being a human being.And it is done very damn well.This is NOT my last Franzen.
While reading The Corrections I really understood the meaning of schadenfreude because I despised almost every character in this book so much that the miserable their lives got, the enjoyment I took from it And when a shotgun was introduced late in the novel, I read the rest of it with my fingers crossed while muttering Please please please please please please in the hope that at least one of those pitiful shits would end up taking a load of buckshot to the face.The Lambert s are a Midwestern family, and while the grown children have all moved to Philadelphia and New York, the parents have remained in St Jude The father, Alfred, was a workaholic middle manager for a railroad and he s the kind of joyless repressed bastard that considered all pleasures frivolous and taking a coffee break as a massive character flaw Now retired, he s suffering from Parkinson s and dementia He deserves it.Enid is the mother Seriously, Franzen Enid I ve lived in the Midwest all my life and have never met an Enid I know you were making a point on how square the old school Midwesterners are, but that s pushing it She s a delusional nagging harpy from hell who aims her passive aggressive attacks at whichever family member has recently burst the bubble of whatever fantasy she is currently clinging to Through most of the book, Enid has her heart set on one last family Christmas at the house in St Jude, and the evil bitch will stop at nothing to get it.Gary is the oldest and a successful investment adviser in Philly, but he married a woman who wants all ties severed with his family and has a special way of getting his sons to join her in her efforts Torn between trying to placate his wife and his mother while letting their denials of reality make him crazy and trying to be the responsible one , Gary is running himself ragged to avoid admitting that he s depressed Someone should pimp slap him so hard that his fillings fly out of his teeth.Chip, the middle son, is a waste of skin with a special talent for self destruction He torched his academic career as a professor just as he was about to get tenure by having an affair with a student and then becoming obsessed with her He s now a mooch in New York working on a screenplay so horrible that it d make a Michael Bay movie look good by comparison He s also the kind of douche bag who thinks that getting rivets put in his ears and wearing leather pants is cool even though he s over thirty.Denise is the one character that I actually had some sympathy for A daddy s girl who adopted Alfred s work ethic, she s a successful chef of an upscale restaurant, but she s also got a messy personal life, including trying to figure out her sexuality At least she s the one member of this dysfunctional hellspawned family that knows she has issues and tries not to deceive herself any than most people do.The weird thing is that even though I loathed the Lamberts and almost every supporting character, too, that I actually enjoyed this book I usually can t stand stories where all the characters problems are self inflicted emotional wounds due to a basic refusal to admit and face reality However, I have to admit that I found this compelling reading Maybe I was into it for all the wrong reasons Namely, that I hated the Lamberts so much that their continued suffering brought sweet tears of joy to my eyes That s probably not what Franzen intended, but he had to create some incredibly vivid characters and do justice to their pathetic lives to make me hate them so very, very much. And when the event, the big change in your life, is simply an insight isn t that a strange thing That absolutely nothing changes except that you see things differently and you re less fearful and less anxious and generally stronger as a result isn t it amazing that a completely invisible thing in your head can feel realer than anything you ve experienced before You see things clearly and you know that you re seeing them clearly And it comes to you that this is what it means to love life, this is all anybody who talks seriously about God is ever talking about Moments like this The Lamberts are experiencing corrections Not economic ones like the rest of the country, although money does underline everything they worry about The whole family, in a myriad of ways, is each on the verge of their very own unique self destructionTHE CORRECTION, when it finally came, was not an overnight bursting of a bubble but a much gentle let down, a year long leakage of value from key financial markets, a contraction too gradual to generate headlines and too predictable to seriously hurt anybody but fools and the working poor There may be big events that finally shove us forward, backwards or sideways, but in the aftermath most of us can find, with some self evaluation, that the crash in our lives was preceded by a series of miniature inadvisable decisions Sometimes we have to crash to correct.Alfred is the father, a Kansan, who believed in hard work and honest labor He has always been moody, self contained, in many ways unknowable At the age of 75 he has come down with Parkinson s and is quickly becoming a burden, impossible to bear, for his wife Enid and his kids He has trouble controlling his bowels and this manifests itself in an almost comic, if it weren t so tragic, series of delusions of talking turds pursuing him relentlessly through the corridors of his own mind He was an amateur chemist and made an important discovery that for unknowable reasons it will be revealed later in the book refuses to fight for his rights to be richly rewarded It drives his oldest son Gary nutsGary didn t know which version of Alfred made him angrier the spiteful old tyrant who d made a brilliant discovery in the basement and cheated himself out of a fortune, or the clueless basement amateur who d unwittingly replicated the work of real chemists, spent scarce family money to file and maintain a vaguely worded patent, and was now being tossed a scrap from the table Both versions incensed him.I admit there are several moments when I too felt the urge to strangle Alfred He is from a generation and geography where a man makes decisions, and never feels the need to explain himself He doesn t care how angry or upset you are Tears nor threats will move him to give you the reasons that led him to his decisions Gary is an investment banker in Philadelphia He has a beautiful wife named Caroline and three sons He is fighting with his wife regularly than normal, and she insists that he is clinically depressed He believes, and is not just paranoid about this issue, that his wife is manipulating events behind his back, subtly turning his sons against him She denies everything, concedes nothing He finds her in pain from her back and realizes as angry as he isThat her face was beautiful and that the agony in it was mistakable for ecstasy that the sight of her doubled over and mud spattered and red cheeked and vanquished and wild haired on the Persian rug turned him on that some part of him believed her denials and was full of tenderness for her only deepened his feeling of betrayal He has a haughty disdain for nearly everyone He talks down to his mother He is furious and almost unhinged with his father He is dismissive of his siblings His lust for his wife is inspired as much by his desire to try and control her as it is about physical contact Her fights with him heightens all kinds of feelings of desire He is almost snobbishly gleeful in his fidelity to her, but as he revels in his superiority there are also other issues knocking around in his headIt occurred to Gary, as the young estate planner leaned into him to let a raft of sweltering humanity leave the elevator, as she pressed her hennaed head against his ribs intimately than seemed strictly necessary, that another reason he d remained faithful to Caroline through twenty years of marriage was his steadily growing aversion to physical contact with other human beings Certainly he was in love with fidelity certainly he got an erotic kick out of adhering to principle but somewhere between his brain and his balls a wire was also perhaps coming loose, because when he mentally undressed and violated this little redhaired girl his main thought was how stuffy and undisinfected he would find the site of his infidelity a coliform bacterial supply closet, a Courtyard Marriott with dried semen on the walls and bedspreads each site over warm and underventilated and suggestive of genital warts and chlamydia in its own unpleasant way and what a struggle it would be to breath, how smothering her flesh, how squalid and foredoomed his efforts not to condescend So really he is faithful because it is unhygienic to cheat Chip is the middle child, a teacher at a college when we first meet him He involves himself with a student who pursued him relentless not so much out of sexual attractiveness, but that she needed his help on a paper for another class Classic barter system that unfortunately for Chip, is discovered After he is fired he writes a breast obsessed first draft of a screenplay called The Academy Purple It is really horrible He loses yet another girlfriend, Julia who s boss decides that she needs to upgrade boyfriends Julia has a husband from Lithuanian who needs someone with Chip s skills With zero prospects in NY Chip decides to fly to Lithuania to help defraud American investors greed can always be exploited After cratering over the loss of his young college lover that left him snuffling his furniture for any residual essence of her nether regions, Chip is getting over lost girlfriends quicker helped by fantasy detours about a bartender he just metIf he couldn t get Julia back, he wanted in the worst way to have sex with the bartender Who looked about thirty nine herself He wanted to fill his hands with her smoky hair He imagined that she lived in a rehabbed tenement on East Fifth, he imagined that she drank a beer at bedtime and slept in faded sleeveless tops and gym shorts, that her posture was weary, her navel unassumingly pierced, her pussy like a seasoned baseball glove, her toenails painted the plainest basic red He wanted to feel her legs across his back, he wanted to hear the story of her forty odd years Things don t go well for Chip in Lithuania, but he was so damn closeHe didn t understand what had happened to him He felt like a piece of paper that had once had coherent writing on it but had been through the wash He felt roughened, bleached, and worn out along the fold lines Denise is the youngest sibling, a successful chef who finds herself the main negotiator between her parents and her brothers She has a history of being attracted to older men which probably has something to do with her uneasy relationship with her father After her marriage to a colleague, twice her age, falls to pieces she is done with men and decides to try her luck with women.With mixed results She gets an opportunity of a lifetime when she meets a young entrepreneur, a member of the recently wealthy who decides he wants to open a restaurant He wants Denise to be his chef and he wants her in his bed She resists, barely, intent on not letting sex destroy this opportunity for her Kudos for trying to break a bad pattern Good thinkingbut sleeping with his wife nullifies all that careful arms length tango she carried out so well with the husbandHer car was like a tongue gliding down the melty asphalt streets, her feet like twin tongues licking the pavement, the front door of the house on Panama Street like a mouth that swallowed her, the Persian runner in the hall outside the master bedroom like a tongue beckoning, the bed in its cloak of comforter and pillows a big soft tongue begging to be depressed, and then The problem with Denise is she has a hard time resisting people who find her attractive She enjoys the fact that older men really appreciate her shapely body The sexual attraction that males and females have for her compels her forward in a relationship long past the time when any of it is still pleasurable for her She loses everything for something she really didn t want in the first place.I haven t even gotten to the mother Enid She is at that point in her life where she is ready to go do things and finds her husbandmoldering and devaluingbefore her very eyes He is an albatross around her neck and yet, she still loves him She desperately clings to the idea of the whole Lambert family coming together one time in St Jude for Christmas If you are someone who likes to read books where you like the characters you might struggle with this book I find that a lot of people who say they don t like this book abandon it before completion It is natural to want someone in a story that you can root for As Jonathan Franzen unpacks these characters he exposes those things that are generally hidden beneath our clothes like a nasty wart near a nipple or cellulite on our butt cheeks The type of flaws we would prefer to be seen in half light, not the glaring brightness of daylight I started out not liking any of these characters, their flaws were dominating their inherently good qualities, but as Franzen so deftly unspools revelations I became and sympathetic What we have to remember is that none of us knows someone s whole history We get pieces and sometimes those are the best pieces, and sometimes we only see someone at their worst moment We never have the whole story that might make sense out of the senseless We have a tendency to ignore our own flaws and castigate those same flaws in others You might be starting to understand where I m going with all this These characters are human, maybe too human, but that could be because Jonathan Franzen may have wrote one of the most honest books you ll ever read If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at A friend once told me that Jonathan Franzen has been quoted as saying he deliberately rips off influential late century American authors such as Pynchon, DeLillo and Roth, but tries to make the prose less difficult, easily consumed Leaving aside for a moment the irony of that statement in light of his outrage over the Oprah thing, that is stupid Those authors are not great because their writing is accessible when the complexity is removed.It was when one of the main characters in The Corrections was talking to a hallucinated turd that I thought, I should just put this down and take a stab at Against the Day, or re read Gravity s Rainbow where a literal shit scene can actually be hilarious and fascinating.In addition to weak pynchonian characters human and fecal , this novel suffers from a lack of strict editing too many peripheral characters, too many inconsequential sub sub subplots , from unsympathetic characters I don t really know what the point is if everyone is horrible and always has and always will hate or be spiteful to everyone around them , from an inconsistent, sudden ending last chapter no one will ever change epilogue everyone changed and is now charitable of heart , from an irritatingly rendered main theme we all try to CORRECT ourselves and one another but we are ultimately unable , and from its own determined effort to be Epic even a glowing review I found of this book said Franzen might as well have called it American Something he compares one of the settings to the rest of the country in the first paragraph, for god s sake.The misery of aging theme was effective, and I appreciated the exploration of a marriage that was bad for no complicated a reason than that the husband and wife weren t right for one another Otherwise I had no use for Franzen and his truckloads of loathing I wrote this review in 2007 and no longer recall being given this quote It s been rightly pointed out since that I shouldn t have used it without a citation and should have been skeptical about its authenticity But this book still sucks. JONATHAN FRANZEN S TOP TEN RULES FOR WRITERS as given to The Guardian on 20 Feb 2010 with additional commenty comments by me 1 The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.Hmm, well, maybe I can t think Hugh Selby had very friendly thoughts when he wrote his brilliant Last Exit to Brooklyn, it reads like he wants to shove all of us into a landfill site and have done with the human race But quite often that s a good attitude for a writer to have Some books you walk around and poke sticks at, they re designed that way some books you take your machete and hack into the meat and the filth and the hell with any bystanders getting splattered, they shouldn t be bystanding so close if their fine suits mean that much to them Some books you can have round for tea with mama So I disagree with rule 1 2 Fiction that isn t an author s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn t worth writing for anything but money.Garrison Keillor musta got a real fat wad for Lake Wobegon then Likewise Dickens I m not sure what this rule really means Maybe it s just like a tie with a drawing of a fish on it 3 Never use the word then as a conjunction we have and for this purpose Substituting then is the lazy or tone deaf writer s non solution to the problem of too many ands on the page.Okay JF okay Deep breaths put your head between your legs 4 Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first person voice offers itself irresistibly.Agreed I recently jacked in a novel because I found to my horror that it was written in the SECOND person You do this, you say that Nooooooooooooo That s just wrong Only one book gets away with that, which is An American Tragedy by Theodore Drieser, which is quite brilliant But after that one no second person You is fired Now E Annie Proulx look away now 5 When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.Naw, I think I see what he s getting at but naw If you marshall your research well, you create a world, you re doing good Who was that woman who lived in a box in England and wrote about Alaska I reviewed it too my memory is going down the drain Ah yes, The Tenderness of Wolves Anyway, that was pretty good So no to rule 5 6 The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention Nobody ever wrote a auto biographical story than The Meta morphosis.Sounds like bollocky bollocks to me Does this actually mean anything 7 You see sitting still than chasing after.Ah, grasshopper, you have much to learn Come on, JF, you re a great writer, don t bullshit us 8 It s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.Also wrong because these days employers can firewall all porn and gambling and social networking sites But here, they don t think of Goodreads as a social networking site, so shhhh, don t tell them 9 Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.He s galumphing again 10 You have to love before you can be relentlessThat s from a Christmas cracker, i bet Anyway, The Corrections is one of the few books which made me want to find out what the guy wrote next, which was Freedom what a crap title The Corrections has one really naff section, where it turns into a stupid farce about post Soviet Lithuania and gangsters and stuff, really bad Otherwise I thought it was tough, tender, relentless even, but sadly, full of interesting verbs Fail yourself, Jonathan. Franzen s writing is impeccable Not only does his understanding of complex, familial relationships fascinate me, but his ability to capture these characters all five of them, I might add with such depthI think that is what really drew me in as a reader I mean, these are people who are so flawed emotionally and so utterly selfish inherently, and yet each of them has this capacity for loving one another even while recognizing their inability to stand each other for than five minutes at a time in a sense they are human than most humans And Franzen knows how to write a sentence, my God All this book did was remind me why I love to read.Honestly, I try to give five stars sparingly, but this one I fully endorse I think what makes it better than Freedom is that I walked away from this with a knot in my stomach I really felt something here Seven year old Chip being left alone at the dinner table until it was late enough for him to fall asleep on his placemat bothered me Juxtapose that with the tenderness Chip shows his dad toward the end of the novel, and you start to wonder whether this man was ever really the emotionally unavailable tyrant that you thought he was Either way, this just serves as a huge reminder for me to appreciate the way things are now while my kids are still young, because it s probably not always going to be this simple. An open letter to my former copy of The Corrections First I want to tell you that it isn t you, it s me People and books grow apart just like people and people grow apart I remember years ago when I read you that there were certain things about you that I really liked but the truth is, I just wasn t really that into you Yeah, that little stunt with Oprah was pretty cute, and I recall we had a laugh, but I m just at that point in my life where I need to make space for new experiences open myself up to what other potentials are out there And you re kinda crowding me a bit.I know you asked me Where did it all go wrong I could hear your muffled whine from the trunk as I drove you with the other books to Goodwill At first, I wished that I had put you at the bottom of the bag beneath the crushing weight of the duplicate copy of Shaw s works and the crap translation of Les Miserables But that s just being petty I ll answer your question honestly Some books, like people, have a character flaw Yours, however, is an author flaw I ve just found myself and baffled by the man who crafted you The tipping point came last week when I read Ben Marcus s piece referencing your author and that was really the final straw Don t take this that you are terrible, because you re not It s just that I personally think that your author is, and I don t want to live in the literary world he wishes to create Thus, the breakup.Over the years you ve been with me, my friends have changed I know that you ve been less than happy about this I ve seen the way that you scoff at all of those Christine Brooke Rose novels on the shelf near you Across the library there are now two whole shelves of Vollmann, growing to three I made it clear that none of your family will be welcome in my house, so you ve been reduced to crossing your arms and pouting while I ve invited in Pynchon, Joyce, Gaddis, Gass, McElroy, Marcus You started claiming that I hate you, but I don t Those three stars are really three So trust me, this is the best thing for both of us Until you find a new home I think you ll like it here Before leaving the Goodwill I browsed amongst their book selection and saw 27 of your identical twins here Perhaps you ll be able to pass the time with them sharing stories about how each of you was dumped. (FREE) ⚤ The Corrections ë De Este Meticuloso Retrato De Los Lambert Emergen De Forma Brillante Y Profundamente Humana Las Angustias Y Contradicciones De Toda Una Sociedad, La Norteamericana, Y De Una Poca, La Ltima D Cada Del Siglo XX Alfred Lambert Es Un Ingeniero De Ferrocarril Jubilado Cuya Percepci N De La Realidad Empieza A Resquebrajarse A Causa De La Enfermedad De Parkinson Su Esposa Enid, Tras Cincuenta A Os De Matrimonio, Sigue Obsesionada Con Mantener El Orden En Su Enorme Casa De Un Pr Spero Barrio Residencial Los Tres Hijos Se Establecieron En La Costa Este A Os Atr S, Lejos Del Hogar Familiar El Mayor, Gary, Es Un Alto Ejecutivo Bancario, Un Mod Lico Padre De Familia Acosado Por El Fantasma De La Depresi N Chip, El Segundo, Tras Su Fracaso En El Mundo Acad Mico, Se Ha Enfrascado En Un Nuevo Proyecto De Dudosa Legalidad Y Denise, La Menor, Extremadamente Competitiva, Triunfa Como Chef De Un Restaurante De Moda, Pero Sufre Los Reveses De Una Vida Sentimental Inestable En El Pa S, La Realidad Econ Mica Corrige Las Expectativas Sobrevaloradas Del Mercado Burs Til, Mientras Los Medicamentos M S Avanzados Corrigen Los Trastornos Del Nimo Pero, En El Mbito De La Familia, Pueden Los Hijos Corregir Los Errores De Sus Padres Y En Un Orden De Cosas M S Concreto, Lograr Enid Reunir A Todos Sus Hijos Para Pasar Una Ltima Navidad Juntos Tercera Novela De Jonathan Franzen, Las Correcciones Editada Por Primera Vez En Castellano En Marc Un Punto De Inflexi N En La Trayectoria De Su Autor Y Lo Consagr Como Uno De Los M S Destacados Escritores Norteamericanos Contempor Neos Y Uno De Los M S Finos Int Rpretes De La Compleja Realidad De Nuestra Poca Con Esta Historia Inmisericorde De Una T Pica Familia Norteamericana, Franzen Obtuvo El National Book Award Y El Premio James Tait Black Memorial, Fue Finalista De Los Premios Pulitzer Y Pen Faulkner, Vendi Cuatro Millones De Ejemplares Y Su Xito Alcanz Una Dimensi N Internacional I love this novel as much for what it turned out that it wasn t as for what it actually was The opening vignette was a deep dive into the subterranean conflicts of a middle class home in Middle America We re immediately focused on the agony and resentment of the emasculated American male wrought by decades of marriage to a dutiful wife who dutifully domesticates the family and becomes an expert in polishing the fa ade In our initial meeting, the retired Alfred has dug himself such a deep trench in his family s basement and his existential ennui at the loss of his manly day job that he hasn t been able to finish a chore in weeks that once would have taken him half an afternoon Meanwhile, the wonderfully unromantically named Enid bustles around the home trying to prop both it and her husband s dignity up but do so in a way that no one else would ever notice Petty squabbles about money abound the gun introduced the first act is a five thousand dollar check that drives the action , intergenerational embarrassment and sadness are the foundation of most of the action, and sexuality twists itself upwards through every crack it can find It had all the props set up for a modern, literary version of the sort of mid century Gruff, Male American Author treatise on the emptiness of the nuclear family experiment that I just can t possibly read one of.And you know what, it is that Those books are certainly in its lineage It takes that framework at the start, it uses its metaphors and wrings out its sentences to paint us such a minutely detailed picture we can t possibly mistake where we are and why But here s the thing this book is no purebred It s the bastard child of a mixed family that slowly reveals that whatever its direct parentage, there s a Wonderland at the end of this rabbit hole Once its got its feet under it, trust me, you do not want to miss this tea party This book is Tolstoyan in its ambitions, and Dickensian in its scope It s postmodern in its experiments with form, and very traditional in its choice of focus The constant stream of its psychological examinations suggests the heights of modernist fancy, but episodes of amazingly straightforward vulgarity and uncomfortably direct descriptions peppered throughout the narrative reminds us that this book was written in a country that was about to produce the Jersey Shore and insist that grandmothers become aware who Paris Hilton is I need all the literary labels my education has exposed me to to make sense of it This isn t in the interest of dust jacket advertising, but an attempt to nail down each of the tools that Franzen makes use of here The farther I got into this book, the I penetrated into the heart of what makes this particular family tick, the enthralling it became The narrative reminded me of that Charlize Theron Dior commercial where she walks through the long, Versailles like hallway and strips off her couture as she goes Only in this version, her makeup and her jewels would have gone as well, and her famous Turn Plain and Slightly Overweight for Oscar character from that movie would appear at the end The this book stripped down, the I couldn t look away Franzen s arrangement of his character s appearances and re appearances is wonderfully stage managed Despite the long and in depth trips inside the heads of each family members, in my view, the book is ultimately arranged to be an examination of the psyche of the Great American Male after all, the father of the family, Alfred Alfred the engineer Alfred the emotionally distant husband and father Alfred the upright and uptight symbol of all that is Good and Right His children are broken mirrors of their own reaction to growing up with this man, and his wife a terribly sad monument to how many different ways a human body and mind can possibly find to twist around and protect a piece of stone that can t see and then can t bear to admit just how many cracks it has developed.Chip, the first child to appear, gives us what appears to be the real lay of the land at the start His chosen persona is the biggest douchebag you could possibly imagine, of the sad college professor in a leather jacket variety Complete with earring and Derrida tome attached to his hip but of course Every sentence about him is just gross, and gets grosser Chip lives in gross Its his identity and his philosophy as a teacher to reveal the grossness of society and corporate culture to the youngsters he teaches But even that is much too time honored a position gross professors being the one thing each generation seems to produce enough of, no problem Chip has to descend even further to pretending that he lives that life while in actuality living another one that depends even on falsity In a post communist state Online With men living in the ruins of the sort of oppression he claims to fight Then finally, finding a tiny bit of honesty in the most ethically horrifying, physically threatening place that he s ever been Chip seems an unlikely candidate to be his father s favorite But only on the surface For all his douchebaggery, for all his poses and his view spoiler sleeping with students hide spoiler