Thursday, July 17, 2014

The CorrectionsThe Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

I continue my project to read every book we own. I either bought this for Maureen as an Xmas present or vice versa. We don't remember. Below is my review from

 The CorrectionsThe Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This is a BOOK, for better or worse, it is a BOOK.

I was oscillating between giving this 4 or 5 stars. As I said, this is a BOOK. It is a book in the way of Aldous Huxley's Point Counterpoint (and as good) and Thomas Wolf's You Can't Go Home Again (but better). Like those two, this book is very, very densely written and there is a lot of it, while not actually having all that much plot or action, but lots of backstory. It reads like a big, important book, where reader feels important and smart because they are reading it. Look at me, I'm reading a big boy book!

To Franzen's great credit, he totally pulls it off. This could be a ponderous snoozefest, and to be honest, it starts off that way. But Franzen is such a great writer that you get sucked into it and happily roll along with it. This is a very long book, over 500 pages. And it is a dense read, or it feels like a dense read, but I ploughed through it at a great clip. Ploughed though it easier than other books that are its polar opposite in density (such as many Janet Evanovich books). The chapters are very long with very few breaks. There are few natural stopping points. But it is easy to stop and start up again.

The book follows 5 main characters, an elderly Midwestern couple and their 3 grown children, plus assorted friends, spouses, and grandchildren. Most of the characters are sort of stupid and self-centered, and few seem to get a clue. But you don't write dramas about happy people who are in control of their lives.

At one point there is strange celebrity name dropping. I guess these are people that Manhattan based Franzen is friends with.

Reading this book was time well enjoyed.

A good hunk of this book takes place in my hometown of Philadelphia, circa 2000. This was a pleasant surprise and greatly added to my enjoyment. Philadelphia of 2000 comes off really well here, surprising so actually. Franzen obviously sent some serious time here because he writes like a true local. It would be interesting to see Franzen's take on Philly circa 2014, and the amazing rebirth much of our city has had.

One more thing, Jonathan Franzen is a genius. A genius in that he really has an amazing knowledge of a lot of various things. All of which, for better or worse, made it into the book. I learned about railroads, especially signals, Norwegian run US cruises, Lithuania, and lots of other things. He doesn't know about growing asparagus, but everything else that I was already familiar with is spot on. Franzen is such a good writer, that I happily went along with all his tangents, not caring when the book would reach its conclusion.

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