Saturday, January 15, 2011


I've been trying to figure out what I should write about The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen since I finished it the week before Christmas.  So much has already been written about this book of a dysfunctional (or maybe more normal than people would like to admit) midwestern family that I wasn't sure which way to direct my own writing. But. The character I kept coming back to was the mother, Enid Lambert: she often made me cringe with a kind of loathing pity with her neurotics, but there were a few moments that absolutely broke me with the concessions she made for her life.  "It wasn't a wonderful life, but a woman could subsist on self-deceptions like these and on her memories (which also now curiously seemed like self deceptions) of the early years when he'd been mad for her and had looked into her eyes."

I felt deep seated sadness after reading this.  When people are young, the future seems a long way off and time to accomplish things and become the person they want to be seems limitless.  Then the line blurs--at different stages and with different weight, which is what we see in Enid's children and husband in the book-- and one can look back and see all of the looking forward that was done has amounted to much less than they imagined.  People then feel stuck in who they've become and the daily rituals they've created. All of the corrections they had planned on making are still just well meaning intentions floating around in the back of their minds.  Or, perhaps, Enid focused on the wrong kinds of corrections: nitpicking after her children and husband and believing that everything could be fixed neatly and tied with a bow.

I'm not a believer that life can be perfect or free of pain.  I am a believer that there is true sustenance that can run deep if we free ourselves from the self deceptions that we walk around believing.

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