When my book-guru gave me ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen, she did it with a comment: “I couldn’t find the other one, but they say this is equally good.”
The other one was ‘The Corrections’.
Two years and many books later, I travelled to her house in Frankfurt. There, she gave me the most fantastic room to sleep in, i.e. one full of books. And amongst the books, we spotted one: ‘The Corrections’ by Jonathan Franzen.
I didn’t start it there and then, since I still was in the middle of a very engaging (and very scary) ‘Cujo’, but I took it home with me to the UK.
Remembering how much I liked ‘Freedom’, I dived into this new masterpiece without a second thought, I fell into the story and soon enough I was at the airport with Chip, walking down the road with Erin and Alfred, arguing with Denise and stalking the house with Gary.
And there I stopped, a quarter of the way through the book.
Why? Because Franzen doesn’t limit himself to describing. Because his prose is more powerful than you might imagine. Because reading Franzen as he depicts a person suffering from depression is a bit like falling down that rabbit hole yourself.
To be fair, it was a particularly stressful moment in my life (the preparation to stage my play ‘The Chair’, a new job coming up, life in general).
A few months later, my eyes fell on the book once more and I picked it up. I quickly passed the difficult point and then consumed the rest in a few days.
As I think I already wrote, it’s a masterpiece.
Even if you get a clear feeling of the corrections that happen during the story, I could hardly explain it better than Franzen himself, who said to BOMB Magazine:
“The most important corrections of the book are the sudden impingements of truth and reality on characters who are expending ever larger sums of energy on self-deception or denial.”
This theme of self-deception and denial is even more apparent when a company comes up with a treatment able to “correct” people’s brain, reprogram them to make them into whatever they want. The ethics underlying the process are into question all through the story.
I can’t pretend I am the right person to explain this book to somebody else. Actually, I really don’t want to.
Franzen is at the greatest when he explains himself.
So go and read this book. Take your time through every chapter, don’t rush it, seep in the emotions and digest them.
It’s the experience of a lifetime. It’s a lifetime of experiences.
If you want to know more about this book, you can visit its Goodreads page.