Book Review: “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen

How important is family in shaping an individual? Philosophical ethics and brute genetic science tell us that nurture beats nature in a landslide, in terms of molding our brains for good or ill. In his compelling 2001 novel, author Jonathan Franzen shows readers a family in which what nurture hath wrought begs for correction.

"The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen. Picador, 2001.

“The Corrections” depicts a world that is boldly small and writhing with emotional detail. Outside of the central Lambert family, nothing else seems to really exist. Matriarch Enid Lambert is a frazzled woman in her early 70s saddled with the responsibility of nannying her formerly great, Parkinson’s-afflicted husband Alfred. Their children Chip, Denise, and Gary live in three different meticulously- and subconsciously-constructed hells. The reader is led to hope these three will become the titular “corrections” to the achingly evident mistakes of their parents — but their failures are so varied and utter that, as Enid succinctly puts it: “Something has to change.”

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Book Review: “A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers

For people older than Dave Eggers, “A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius” is,

“A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers. Vintage Books, 2000.

understandably, a revelation. An irrepressible young mind reacting with rage, sadness, and above all, self-awareness, to tragedies both unique and mundane. For people younger (myself included), there’s nothing new here, just the constantly reevaluating stream of consciousness that attends modern American culture.

AHWOSG is a memoir, motivated primarily by the death of Dave’s parents by cancer and the forced responsibility of raising his young brother Toph. Eggers is not a great writer, he’s a detail-obsessed phenomenologist. His sentences teem with asides, em-dashes, expletives, and self-reference. As I write this review, I allow myself to be distracted by the episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I have playing on the TV. The best way to understand the book is to see that this unprofessional distraction is entirely appropriate.

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