And now, the first guest post of Franzen in February 2017! The lovely Carolyn of Rosemary and Reading Glasses valiantly took on The Corrections, after promising to do so last year. Read on to see how she fared – though the title probably gives you an idea – and do check out her blog. Her Last Week’s Reading series is particularly good, if dangerous for the TBR; she is also a certified poetry concierge!
I’ve read a few of Jonathan Franzen’s essays (hated the one on Edith Wharton, in which he repeatedly comments on her looks; thought better of the one on Antarctica) and I’ve caught the general flavor of his views on technology and the reading public. I’ve also been delighted to read Laura’s spirited posts about the novelist over the last few years. All of this to say I came to Franzen in February wary of Franzen, but willing to be pulled in by his writing.
I sat down to read The Corrections in a good mood, which dissipated over the next hour or so. I stopped reading at the top of page 62, a little more than 10% into the novel.
At first I was annoyed by the over-description in the first chapter (overstuffed, like Alfred’s chair), but then I realized that it’s meant to be satire, and I settled in to be amused.
My amusement did not last long.
The appearance of Chip Lambert—rivet in his ear, leather on his back, sex with younger women on his mind—did not bode well for my reading enjoyment. And indeed, I found him supremely disagreeable, to the point that I closed the book in disgust.
Now, it’s not Jonathan Franzen’s fault that I’m reading this book in 2017, when an irascible, vulgar, predatory, acquisitive, bigoted, uninformed, malevolent, rapacious, and mendacious man is the current occupant of the White House. It’s not Jonathan Franzen’s fault that smug and snide white men of Chip’s political persuasion were conspicuous characters in my decade-long experience of higher education. It’s not Jonathan Franzen’s fault that he’s very, very good at writing a smug, pathetic, over-sexed, creepy dude.
It’s not his fault, but I simply could not bear the thought of spending any more of my time in the head of Chip Lambert.
So I stopped reading.
However, had I been reading The Corrections when it came out in 2001, I suspect I would have been impressed by Franzen’s style and characterization (unlikeable characters are, in general, fine by me) and ability to weave together multiple themes (family, economy, personal and national malaise, illness, etc.). I wouldn’t rule out trying this novel again, but not this year.
Sigh! I’m zero for three on the “forcing people to read Franzen” front (see previous failures here and here). But we press on. Stay tuned for more guests posts as Franzen in February 2017 draws to a close!