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A comic, tragic masterpiece of an American family breaking down in an age of easy fixes, Franzen's third novel brings an old-time America of freight trains and civic duty into wild collision with the era of home surveillance and New Economy speculation.
Jonathan Franzen grew up in a suburb of St. Louis as an awkward introspective child, the son of a stern unemotional father who would eventually die of Alzheimer's, and a fussy mother obsessed with 1950s American status-quo. After working in a Seismology Lab at Harvard, Franzen wrote two well-received but commercially minor novels, THE TWENTY-SEVENTH CITY and STRONG MOTION. In 1996 Franzen wrote an essay for Harper's magazine titled "Perchance to Dream: In the Age of Images, a Reason to Write Novels," that discussed the plight of the American novel in an age of television and film, and particularly mourned the lack of readership for serious "social novels" and novels of ideas such as the works of Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. The essay ended on a hopeful note, with Franzen claiming that the "social novel" needed to combine the formula of the family drama with rigorous intellectual thought, a fusion of popular and highbrow literature. The literary world waited with a mixture of anticipation and doubt until five years later when Franzen's THE CORRECTIONS hit the stands. The book was an unqualified success, a vindication of Franzen's bold claims: it received glowing reviews, won the National Book Award, and became one of the bestselling books of the 21st century. Franzen and THE CORRECTIONS also caused a controversy when it was selected to Oprah's Book Club, but removed from the list after Franzen denounced the "schmaltzy" nature of previous Book Club selections. Since then, Franzen has written primarily nonfiction for The New Yorker and Harper's, often dealing with his relationship with his parents, and has released two collections of non-fiction essays. Franzen's writing is known for its dark, unforgiving take on family, society, and himself, and for his powerful blend of emotional insight and intellectual thought.
"...THE CORRECTIONS...recalls no novel so much as John Cheever's THE WAPSHOT SCANDAL. THE CORRECTIONS is just as funny and sad and smart as that masterpiece, and Franzen, like Cheever, reminds us of the timelessness of human folly."
"Clearly Mr. Franzen's novel would have benefited enormously from a strict editing job....All in all, however, THE CORRECTIONS remains a remarkably poised performance, the narrative held together by myriad meticulously observed details and tiny leitmotifs that create a mosaiclike picture of American in the waning years of the 20th century....By turns funny and corrosive, portentous and affecting, THE CORRECTIONS not only shows us two generations of an American family struggling to make sense of their lives, but also cracks open a window on a sullen country lurching its way toward the millennium."
"If Franzen's handling of the book's difficult narrative balance between satire and realism is not always graceful, the Lambert family itself is prodigiously alive in either setting. By the midway point of THE CORRECTIONS I had stopped regarding its members as fictional characters and thought of them as people I knew--awkward, difficult and self-destructive people, to be sure. I wondered what trouble they were getting into when I wasn't around, and what would become of them after I left their world."
"Jonathan Franzen has written a wonderful novel about nuclear family fission....Full of understatement and overreaction, irony and anger, anthropology and surrealism, glut and glee..., THE CORRECTIONS is the whole package, as if nobody ever told Franzen that the social novel is dead and straight white males vestigial. You will laugh, wince, groan, weep, leave the table and maybe the country, promise never to go home again, and be reminded of why you read serious fiction in the first place: to console and complicate the extreme self with the beauty and truth of sinewy sentences...."
"Sure, I guess it's a no-no to put stuff in your book that doesn't pay off, but I can't scrape together much outrage when I'm basically having a good time....If you don't end up liking each one of Franzen's people, you probably just don't like people. And by the way, assuming the book really does speak to our condition, it doesn't pretend to know any more about it than we do....No one book, of course, can provide everything we want in a novel. But a book as strong as THE CORRECTIONS seems ruled by its own self-generated aesthetic: it creates the illusion of giving a complete account of a world, and while we're under its enchantment it temporarily eclipses whatever else we may have read. But I guess that IS everything we want in a novel...."
From the Publisher
The Lambert family isn't doing well. Alfred has Parkinson's disease and a bad case of alienation from his wife, Enid. Gary is a banker with a heart of steel. Chip is in New York City trying to find himself, but losing the battle. And Denise is stuck in a destructive affair with someone very unsuitable. Enid is hoping to steal away with Alfred for a long-postponed cruise, but as things start to spiral out of control, the Lamberts must examine where they are, where they have been, and what exactly it means to be a family in the latter half of the 20th century. THE CORRECTIONS was a bestseller and a New York Times "Editor's Choice" for 2001.
The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen.