Whether you know him from his other works or from the Oprah Book Club uproar in 2001, James Franzen is hailed as a master of writing stories with families that unravel the nitty gritty problems within them, beneath the perfect, smiling exterior. His book The Corrections is a prime example of how all families have varying degrees of being dysfunctional, real or fictitious.
As I’m reading the novel for a literary criticism class, its been interesting to see people take extreme sides about each of the characters, most of the class hating one of the sons, Chip, for being pretentious and negative about the 1990s society and its obsession with commodity. There are a few brave souls who argue that because he’s flawed and trying to learn from his mistakes, he is interesting and they desire to see him try to improve and learn from his errors.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Franzen’s characters are a mixed bag of emotions for me. I admire the fact that he is able to develop characters that feel real, in terms of emotions, reactions, habits, and tone, which in turn, reminds me of figures I know in real life. At the same time, I can find the quirks of some of the characters to be a bit of a headache after reading them over and over again in different passages.
The only character I really despise in the book is Gary’s wife since she seems like a throwaway character who uses the very tactics that I’ve seen some girls use in high school and college: “The Weak One” that everyone comes to the aid of. In turn, the weak one is able to make the sympathetic parties around her do her bidding. I knew a girl in high school who pulled this act all the time, even in Band. Finally, my conductor called her out on it, when she started to blame her weak sound on her reed. “It’s not your reed, its you.”
Despite its status as an infamous book, you should take a look at The Corrections and make your own judgement.