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The Corrections
Jonathan Franzen

review by: Stephan Finch
Date: 12/1/02

Jonathan Franzen famously declared in a 1996 essay in Harper's that the novel desperately needed rescue then set about trying to save it by writing The Corrections. In The Corrections, Franzen takes the war on the modern reader's attention span to a new, even more insidious level: The sentence. There isn't a single one in the entire novel that's comprehensible.

The very first one in the novel sets the tone: "The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through." What the heck is that? It's a not a complete sentence for one. And it's about the weather, for goodness sake. The most cliched opening sentence of all time is "It was a dark and stormy night." Shortening the cliche by hacking off the subject and verb of that sentence doesn't make it artful. It just makes more obvious that Franzen is a hack. (By the way, I happen to live in Chicago where lots of autumn prairie cold fronts come through and let me tell you: It's no big deal.)

The most delicious irony to accompany the publication of The Corrections: It was chosen as an Oprah book. Need I say more?

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