Chamblee54

The Corrections

Posted in Book Reports, GSU photo archive by chamblee54 on June 11, 2018

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It started with a yard sale. The man had a box of books available for free. PG looked through it. A hardback copy of The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen, caught his eye. Wasn’t that David Foster Wallace’s buddy? Literary types drop the name, and talk behind his back on twitter. . PG picked up the book, and took it home. It sat on a shelf for a few years, along with the other free, or cheap, books that PG had adopted. Eventually, PG decided to try a few pages. 567 pages, and countless dinners later, The Corrections is finished.

It is time to write a book report for the blog, but PG does not know where to start. There are amazon one star reviews, which don’t have enough entertaining snark to bother with. Wikipedia suggests an 2006 interview with Brett Easton Ellis, where you wade through endless chatter to learn that BEE thinks that TC is “one of the three great books of your generation.” This is after the interviewer asks BEE is he has a dog, or a girlfriend.

This is not going to be easy, either to write or to read. PG has been slack about writing lately … being ignored by a billion internet users will do that. TC is just barely interesting enough to write about. Oh, it has its moments. Mr. Franzen is a clever writer, and if you don’t believe him, read a few more pages. Mr. Franzen likes to show off his literary chops. TC is like Infinite Jest lite. Which means the normal reader can finish it, without chemical assistance.

Mr. Franzen is well known for being a pal of David Foster Wallace. If you google “Jonathan Franzen and,” the top three suggestions are David Foster Wallace, Oprah, and birds. You have to wonder what Mr. Franzen really thought of Mr. Wallace. “Wallace’s friend (and friendly rival) Jonathan Franzen declared in The New Yorker in 2011, “he wasn’t Saint Dave.” Franzen upset people further when he casually suggested to New Yorker editor David Remnick that Wallace exaggerated facts and embellished quotes in his non-fiction.”

Maybe the best thing to do is listen to Mr. Franzen on the Charlie Rose show. While this is playing, PG can work on a graphic poem, or stare out the window. The youtube comments are amusing. Nikolaos Mylonas “The interviewer is a famous journalist called charlie rose. Now he is discredited due to accusations of sexual abuse made by his employees” Drew “Interesting that he seems to find reading books so tremendously useless in his utilitarian, food-in-stomach type of way. Yet he writes … from this pleasure of uselessness? …”

At some point Mr. Rose says “We’ve gone this far without mentioning Oprah,” to which Mr. Franzen replies, “And what a pleasant twenty minutes it has been.” Apparently, Mr. Franzen and Miss Winfrey had a well documented disagreement. This dispute focused a lot of attention on TC, and may have helped Mr. Franzen more than it hurt. It should be noted that PG had not heard of the Oprah problem while he was reading TC.

A Million Little Pieces is another book with an Oprah problem. PG paid twenty cents for his copy of AMLP. In the chamblee54 book report, there is a book meme: ““Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.” For TC, this would be: “When he punted the box from Gary it exploded in a cloud of white styrofoam saucers.” Chip, the number two child in the story, is spending Christmas at home of his older brother, Gary. For some reason, Chip takes his gifts and tries to kick them up the stairs. This Christmas … much of the plot in TC involves another dysfunctional family Christmas … is in the middle of Chip ruining his academic career. Maybe kicking the gift, and having it explode in a shower of styrofoam, is a metaphor.

The third sentence on page 82 is typical of Mr. Franzen’s style. He writes lots of great quotes. Goodreads and schmoop have pages devoted to them.“And meanwhile the sad truth was that not everyone could be extraordinary, not everyone could be extremely cool; because whom would this leave to be ordinary?” “Fiction is a solution, the best solution, to the problem of existential solitude.” “Without privacy there was no point in being an individual.” “He couldn’t figure out if she was immensely well adjusted or seriously messed up.” tags: inspirational-quotes, writing-philosophy.

TC is plot challenged. The schmoop summary can help. TC is about the Lambert Family. They are so mid-western that it hurts, which may be why two children escape to Filthadelphia. Alfred and Enid are the parents, living in a place called St. Jude … it is tough to say what St. Jude is a stand in for, except that it is in the mid-west. Gary, the eldest, married with three sons, is an asshole. Chip, the package kicker, is fired from a tenure track job. He had an affair with a student. Denise, the youngest, a chef, is fired after having an affair with the restaurant owner’s wife. The details of those four sentences takes up about four hundred pages of TC. The macguffin is to get all three kids together for one last christmas. None of the five Lamberts mentioned above is a likable person. The closest thing to a likable Lambert is Jonah, the youngest son of Gary.

One of the side plots involves Lithuania. Chip takes a job there, as a computer geek, working for a post-communist criminal. It turns out this Lithuania exists only in Mr. Franzen’s mind. “In a loopy section of his novel that forms a kind of fantasy-ballet diversion from the main events, Chip, failed academic and failing screenwriter, becomes involved with an internet-based financial scam based in Vilnius. The Vilnius of The Corrections is a gangster’s paradise of teenage prostitutes, fraud, corruption and armed robbery. Although very funny, it is an account unburdened by research. Recently, looking up his own book on Amazon.com, he noticed that Lithuanian readers have begun posting snarly e-mails, in protest at his depiction of their homeland. “I’ve not been to Lithuania, although the ambassador has now invited me to come and see for myself that they don’t eat horse meat. The horse meat has really touched a nerve.””

TC rambles on for 567 pages, with lots of flashbacks and sub plots. Most of the detours are described in excruciating detail. And yet, PG finished the damn thing. TC did not change his life. It was doing good to change Alfred’s diapers. Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.

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