The CorrectionsBook | Jonathan Franzen By Tracy O’Neill
In their abundance of meat and potatoes and inalienable rights, it is the pursuit of happiness for which the Lamberts show the least aptitude.
After publishing a much-touted call-to-arms for ambitious would-be novelists, Jonathan Franzen wrote a showy, ambitious novel of his own called The Corrections. His magnum opus stares down the big guns--greedy corporations, pharmaceutical giants, democracy, the nuclear family, and even foodie snobbery--through the story of a Midwestern family. The Lamberts are the petulant social-climbing suburbanite Enid, her American Dreaming husband Alfred, and their three screw-up kids, who just can't seem to get it right despite a middle-class upbringing featuring home-cooked dinners eaten together and college educations paid for with prudent working-class savings. In fact, in their abundance of meat and potatoes and inalienable rights, it is the pursuit of happiness for which the Lamberts show the least aptitude; the kids can't live up to their parents' heightened expectations, and their parents can't live their failures down. Franzen nails the hypocrisy and misery with fine and often-hilarious accuracy, though at times his sprawling depictions creep dangerously towards verbose smugness. Yet this American epic, one spanning generations and coasts with mordant elegance that could leave Martin Amis sputtering on his British behind, dazzles without any corrections.