I just marathoned this in 6 days. I enjoyed it. What are your thoughts on The Corrections by Johnathon Franzen?

I just marathoned this in 6 days. I enjoyed it. What are your thoughts on The Corrections by Johnathon Franzen?

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  1. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    I can’t make my mind up about it. On the one hand, the bleak family dynamics are very well-portrayed and I regard them higly. On the other hand, the Chip episodes (while I enjoyed them the most) feel almost a bit tacked on, as if Franzen felt that there should be at least one interesting character with wacky adventures to spice up the book a little in order to cut through the bleakness. Generally, I’d say the book is quite good.

    In my head, Franzen (or at least this book) somewhat falls inbetween the ‘divide’ of ‘literature’ and ‘books mom reads on her holiday’, a feeling I also get with writers like Murakami and Safran Foer.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      I enjoyed it, stumbles from time to time but over quite good. Alfred and the bench was quite well executed and effective, completely transforms who Alfred is and suddenly you stop rooting for Enid to shove a salad fork through his eye.

      Franzen makes the reader's relationship with the Chip reflect Enid's giving us all that drama of his life falling apart before dumping us into the banality of her life, we don't know what is going on with him anymore than she does and we miss him because his story was a hell of a lot more interesting than sitting home with Alfred wondering if they wayward and absent son will make it home and give her one last Christmas at home with the entire family. The novel does not work without Chip and Franzen did it well.

      My thoughts are that it is one book in a long line of books about a random family that tries to be down to earth and realistic that some writers shit out, like DeLillo for example. I can't really say that Underworld, for example, is meaningfully different from the corrections. In fact, there's nothing setting apart Franzen's own Freedom from the The Corrections I'd say. It's all paint by numbers but the colors are swapped out each time.
      This doesn't mean the book is bad by any means btw.

      Freedom and The Corrections are very different books, both deal with family and do it from the perspective of a family drama but work to very different ends; The Corrections is about the family itself and how the family effects each other, Freedom is about the external pressures society places on the family. If you read them you are a plotgay.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        Where should I start if I haven't read any Franzen?

        • 1 month ago
          Anonymous

          The Corrections or Freedom. The Corrections is easier, he was working out his style and technique with it so theme is very near the surface and can almost be understood through plot alone with character/their interactions just building nuance and filling in details. Freedom is a better work but theme is carried through the characters themselves with plot only providing the framework so you need to keep track of everyone's motives and reason and how their relationships affect them and who they are and the evolution of all that every step of the way. He executes it well and once you find the handful of repeating patterns he exploits it is just a matter of identifying the pattern and how this time around is different from the previous times instead of trying to remember each and every detail.

          If you are not good with parsing dense books The Corrections would be the better place to start and will make Freedom easier when you get around to it.

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            Very helpful. Thank you anon

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            How can I learn to see how theme is developed when I read like how you just explained theme development in those Franzen books?

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            That is a big question and difficult to answer beyond saying read and study, especially difficult when the question is asked generically and not about a single book. The number of ways a writer can go about developing theme is infinite and there is no single answer. Pick a few books and go over and over them and pull them apart until you understand each and every nuance, once you have done it a few times it will become automatic and you will just do it as you read. Or go to school.

            Some criticism can be helpful (primarily the comparative sort, avoid interpretation/analysis of single works) but criticism is written for people who have a good understanding of how literature works and in retrospect I realize I gave myself an illusion of understanding by reading criticism before I could understand on my own. Gass was the one exception for me and the one who made me realize that I did not actually understand and gave me the desire to put in the time and effort to understand but I can't say he helped much beyond giving me that desire.

            One way or another you need to put in the time and the effort to see all the complexity and nuance which goes into just one book. If you have read Freedom I can go into some depth on that one, The Corrections would not be very useful here. But that would be after work, time to go.

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            >One way or another you need to put in the time and the effort to see all the complexity and nuance which goes into just one book. If you have read Freedom I can go into some depth on that one, The Corrections would not be very useful here. But that would be after work, time to go.
            Haven't read Franzen. I was just reading this thread because he's on my tbr. Could you do Gravity's Rainbow? That's a book I really struggled with.

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            GR is a tricky one when it comes to theme since important contexts required to resolve theme are in AtD with M&D and probably Vineland adding in some nuance but we can still understand GR in isolation, we just always end up with a few irritating loose ends which we can never quite tie up.

            First we have the rocket and some chaos caused by the rocket, then we have Pirate observing the rocket and contemplating the rocket landing dead square center of his head. Right there Pynchon lays out the basic mode of the novel, he repeated the same thing twice each with a different perspective and through it we get some important information about the sort of person Pirate is, death is something he long ago accepted and now just find a curiosity. Then we have bananas.

            Enter Slothrop and again with the rocket and through the rocket we learn some important stuff about the sort of person who Slothrop is. Then Slothrop and the rocket and Pirate. More bananas in the form of a camera cushioning sandwich and again the rocket and Slothrop via his map. And we have a new repetition, Slothrop and we start learning about by people by way of their relation to Slothrop as the other repetition goes on and we find out about fun loving Blicero and so on. Slothrop repetition fractures and we get the dog Vanya and the various similar experiments.

            And down the toilet we go to the most important of the repetitions, Slothrop losing touch with reality which we get to write off as that sodium amytal for the time being. But then questions are raised, during those intimate moments like sex things get a little weird, not quite a complete loss of reality but something is off. And this increases as we go along until we eventually get back to the bananas.

            The trick with GR is we have to find all these repetitions which span the entire book often only happening a few time at opposite ends of the book like those bananas, once we do that we can start making sense of Slothrop and what he is going through beyond literal plot level and start making sense of it all. How about them banaas?

            But Pynchon and most authors give us some big clues right at the start like the simple repetition of the rocket which is just a literary way to say pay attention, this is a literary device I am going to employ throughout the novel!

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            I did not quite explain how the repetitions work towards the whole, just sort of implied, got caught up in showing how to identify the structure and forgot to show how to interpret it.

            The repetitions are all things which can not be understood in isolation, you have to add them all up to see the larger picture. So, that repetition of the rocket which he opens the novel with; in isolation each repetition gives us a bit of information about a character through their relation to the rocket but when we put them all together we get something more, we get a view of society, it is not just rocket bad, it is this is a very nuanced and complicated thing that has ramifications far beyond the momentary chaos of when it goes boom. Slothrop attempts to understand this through understanding the rocket, people try and understand the rocket through Slothrop's magic penis and so on.

            Each thread of repetition adds up to give us something more and when we combine those threads we get the whole.

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            I did not quite explain how the repetitions work towards the whole, just sort of implied, got caught up in showing how to identify the structure and forgot to show how to interpret it.

            The repetitions are all things which can not be understood in isolation, you have to add them all up to see the larger picture. So, that repetition of the rocket which he opens the novel with; in isolation each repetition gives us a bit of information about a character through their relation to the rocket but when we put them all together we get something more, we get a view of society, it is not just rocket bad, it is this is a very nuanced and complicated thing that has ramifications far beyond the momentary chaos of when it goes boom. Slothrop attempts to understand this through understanding the rocket, people try and understand the rocket through Slothrop's magic penis and so on.

            Each thread of repetition adds up to give us something more and when we combine those threads we get the whole.

            Damn anon, that’s amazing. Great insights. Let me ponder over all this with my breakfast.

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            [...]
            So would you say repetition is the most important thing to be looking out for?

            90% of getting theme and understanding the mechanics of novels is finding the patterns (repetition) and the contexts and authors almost always try and make this easy for the reader, but they also try and make it natural which makes it easy to read right past them if you are not paying attention. It is ultimately a growth of simple character development and the natural ways in which we get to know people; the context is the person or character and we judge how they grow over time by how their behavioral patterns change or don't change, in people we judge this primarily through action and words but in literature we often have things like internal monologues to complicate things.

            Sometime probably around the turn of the 20th writers started to apply this sort of growth to idea and theme which allowed much more complexity in theme. Realists and naturalists played with it before then but mostly kept the context limited to a single character which is essentially character as symbol with their actions defining that symbol or a way to draw parallels between characters. Then we start getting works like Growth of the Soil which fully exploit it and it is subtle and easy to miss because the pattern is one natural to the context, we have every single character repeating the same pattern in their own personal way and developing their context. To understand the novel we need to add them all up, it takes a village. Theme ceases being simple and lives, it is not that pride is a sin, it is this very complex thing which can't be reduced but can be explored.

            Half a century later we get to writers like Pynchon and it is no longer simple patterns and repetitions and their contexts, the patterns fracture off into two or more related patterns, they merge, they jump lanes and accumulate new contexts and become contexts which then repeat forming a new pattern. But it is still just finding pattern and context. In some ways works like GR are easier to sort than those which keep the patterns naturalistic, we can spot them easier because they often are a bit off, no one misses Slothrop going down the toilet even if they don't understand it, but many miss character being defined by how they feel about getting hit by the rocket because that is information we naturally process, we encounter it and we empathize without even realizing it. Many of the big works which are often reduced to banalities on IQfy are works which keep much or all of this sort of repetition natural to the context, so Infinite Jest becomes weed bad/tv bad, Freedom becomes a family drama and Growth of the Soil becomes an ironic trad larp porn.

            Some works rely more on contexts than patterns, some use both and some go mostly to pattern but all give the readers hints and they generally start giving those hints early on. Just need to learn to spot them and once you have it will just happen as you read.

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            wow, thanks. surprised to see this thread still up.

            >Just need to learn to spot them and once you have it will just happen as you read
            do you have a general strategy that you apply to all books as you read to do this?

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            I did not quite explain how the repetitions work towards the whole, just sort of implied, got caught up in showing how to identify the structure and forgot to show how to interpret it.

            The repetitions are all things which can not be understood in isolation, you have to add them all up to see the larger picture. So, that repetition of the rocket which he opens the novel with; in isolation each repetition gives us a bit of information about a character through their relation to the rocket but when we put them all together we get something more, we get a view of society, it is not just rocket bad, it is this is a very nuanced and complicated thing that has ramifications far beyond the momentary chaos of when it goes boom. Slothrop attempts to understand this through understanding the rocket, people try and understand the rocket through Slothrop's magic penis and so on.

            Each thread of repetition adds up to give us something more and when we combine those threads we get the whole.

            So would you say repetition is the most important thing to be looking out for?

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            Omission and traces. Something absent that only gets mentioned once or twice is usually more thematically relevant than its omission makes it appear. It's a form of repetition, but a subextual kind. Lacuna are easier to note, gaps that are alluded to and make a narrative more ambiguous because seemingly critical events are left unseen. Traces are some hardcore postmodern metaphysical shit. You're left with a word or concept that is inaccurate but points to an occluded thematic truth that can't so easily be reduced.

            Those are some of the more difficult devices to notice, because they aren't there or are presented as wrong.

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            Can you give an example of an omission or trace in GR which is not a function of something which repeats and meaningful? I can't think of any which are not either an omission or addition to a repetition. Pynchon does exploit the unknown and allusions a fair amount but it is primarily just a way to keep the reader off balance beyond what I hinted at with GR analyzed in isolation leaves some threads dangling; we lack the context for properly interpreting these things until we get to AtD.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >Safran Foer.
      What did you read by him? I can see that for Everything is Illuminated but Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Tree of Codes are firmly in the literature category. Have yet to read I am Here, no idea where he went with that one.

  2. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    My thoughts are that it is one book in a long line of books about a random family that tries to be down to earth and realistic that some writers shit out, like DeLillo for example. I can't really say that Underworld, for example, is meaningfully different from the corrections. In fact, there's nothing setting apart Franzen's own Freedom from the The Corrections I'd say. It's all paint by numbers but the colors are swapped out each time.
    This doesn't mean the book is bad by any means btw.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Referring to DeLillo’s writing as down-to-earth and realistic hurts my brain. Underworld maybe, but that’s it.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        He clearly does not read anything heavier than a wikipedia summery.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >I can't really say that Underworld, for example, is meaningfully different from the corrections.
      DeLillo and Franzen are on very different levels in terms of the prose they write. If you didn't notice that, you are still in beginner's stage of reading.

  3. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Franny sucks

  4. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    If you insist on reading authors of that generation, Lethem mogs Franzen by orders of magnitude. But you'd be better off going back a few decades and reading their influences instead.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Letham fails to really exploit the genre shit he builds off of, never quite ties it all together. Interesting from a purely genre standpoint but disappointing from a literary standpoint. He is a less interesting version of Auster who also fails on tying in the genre shit but keeps it a more minor aspect so it does not detract as much.

  5. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Franzen fails the physiognomy check and so do the people who like his books.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      He was accused of being dwarf-faced.

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