Reading Franzen Part III Cont’d



Part III follows the adventures of eldest son Gary Lambert and his family which is essentially the same family life he grew up in, in spite of his efforts to do better.


We can all go home, because on page 181, Franzen explains to the world that the whole point of the book is Gary the eldest’s sons attempt to ‘correct’ his father’s mistakes. I think that sums up what the book is about perfectly and I clearly don’t need to read any further.

Part of the problem I’ve had with the book from the beginning, and I’m starting to notice a trend with this genre is that there is a great lack of sympathetic characters. I realize this makes them true to life, and perhaps this is my genre background talking, everybody wants a character to root for, and you just aren’t going to get that with this sort of book. There’s no one you want to root for. There are characters you feel sorry for because they have to deal with the other characters, but there’s no protagonist that you really feel like, I care what happens to you, I want you to succeed.

In this part, Gary the eldest son, is basically recreating his father’s life, but in the way he feels his father should live. He has what he considers to be the perfect family and yet he’s in denial about the fact that he’s depressed. It’s curious because there are a lot of indicators that his marriage is a lot like his fathers, he doesn’t really love his wife, in fact he’s emotionally abusive to her in the same way his father is to his mother. It seems like his purpose in life is to prove to himself that he’s not his father, which seems to be a lot of the purpose of all of the children thus far. That they aren’t like their parents, but in that way, it seems they end up exactly like who they don’t want to be. They fall into the same pitfalls, which is of course relatable because there are a lot of people who don’t necessarily want to end up like their parents.

While I applaud Franzen’s ability to manipulate the readers emotions, the more I read of the story, the angrier I got, that doesn’t for me make it a good book. I’ve really given this story a lot more than I would have given any other book, typically if you can’t capture my interest within the first chapter I’m not the sort of person who’s going to give you a hundred pages to get into your groove, but by now I’ve given Franzen 200, and while I can openly admit that he’s clearly good at what he does in the sense that his story can make you feel what he wants you to, I don’t feel like it’s a story you get sucked into. You don’t necessarily see the world around you in the really visceral way you can with another book, or at least that’s the case for me. Beyond completely unlikable characters there’s the fact that the story seems to jump around all over the place, and I can’t help but feel that any other author, who was not already well known would not have been able to get away with such a thing. I’m not sure if the Corrections was Franzen’s debut novel or not, but it strikes me as odd that a book can just jump into the past without much warning.

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