Just started The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen last night. After a tepid few weeks of reading, this one’s turning into a real treat. It took a while for me to settle into Franzen’s prose, but now I’m loving it.
The opening description of the Enid and Al Lambert’s home in “St. Jude” reads awkwardly, but I think — after the fact — it is purposefully written as such to capture the stagnant yet precarious nature of the household. It takes a few pages to accept the “guerilla warfare” metaphor used to describe Enid’s silent battle to keep the household finances out-of-site from an excitable and semi-lucid Al, but ultimately it works.
Things really start popping in “The Failure,” when we meet Chip, the Lambert’s 43-year-old disaster of a son, a disgraced former liberal arts professor, now scraping by as a writer in New York City. Chip’s flashback, reliving his comic tryst with a seductive undergrad, Melissa, and subsequent flameout at D—— College, is one of the most hilariously sharp set pieces I’ve read in a long time. Franzen is rolling during this section and having a blast while at it.
Some of my favorite lines thus far:
It’s the fate of most Ping-Pong tables in home basements eventually to serve the ends of other, more desperate games. (p. 7)
The space between Al’s “I am-” and “packing my suitcase,” (p. 11) is a wonderfully flashy digression.
“They’re leather. They’re like a second skin.” (p. 18)
“Did you grow up here?” (Or do you come from a trans-Appalachian state where people are warmhearted and down-to-earth and unlikely to be Jewish) (p. 23)
Soft curves in thermal knitwear spilled out on either side of her overalls’ bib, Chip noticed. (p. 49)
The VCR made a dry, thin choking sound. Air; need air, it seemed to say. (p.51)
… each image recalled him to the unfunny raw comedy of what he’d done to her. The jismic grunting butt-oink. The jiggling frantic nut-swing. (p. 58)
The last one’s my favorite so far. More to come.