Friday, October 11, 2013

"Self-inflicted. You Pathetic American" - The Corrections readalong Week 2

   Week 2 of #MonthofFranzy and we're off with a bang! Thanks x10 to Alley for hosting this readalong, and - I assume - paying for our therapy if this book turns out to be rubbish. Right Alley? Alley...?

So get this, I think I like The Corrections.

I know Anne, I know
I honest to god was expecting this book to be hella dense and that pretentious '25 word sentence when 4 would have done fine' crap so I'm really, truly surprised at how readable it is. I really didn't like the opening paragraph - actually that whole first section before we meet Chip was a bit bleh- what with the sentences about acorns showering onto homes with no mortgages, but once I got into the swing of it, I really got into the swing of it.

So that first bit with Enid and Alfred. I found it a little confusing, like I was coming into the story 10 pages in and was madly scrambling to work out who each of them were and why Enid hides things all over the house and something about an alarm bell that I'm still not sure if it was metaphorical or literal. But I guess in a weird way it did its job, because I didn't just give up or scribble BLECHHH across the page, and I think I may hate Enid even more if I hadn't had this period of crazy weirdness to add some depth to her. So good job Franzen.

So I guess it's time to talk about Chip. What. A. Pretentious. Dick.

In this scenario Chip is Kirk, and I am Kirk's hand.
First he shows up to meet his parents in leather pants and earrings, then we get some sound-bites of his screenplay which is 10 pages of literary criticism and then 150 of boobs. Then we find out that he was the WORST teacher, like ugh, his class sounded like the pits. And then we see not once, but twice, how fucking insane he is in a relationship. Like seriously, if you ever meet Franzen  Chip then for the love of all that is holy, RUN. Otherwise he will stalk you and sniff at a couch for your scent (ugh, seriously, this guy) before masturbating over whatever sensory hallucination he manages to spark.

He's literally the absolute worst. No one, in the history of humankind, even comes close. And I think a lot of my enjoyment in this book is going to be derived from how much pain he inflicts. God I hope it's a lot.

 This first section was basically all about him. We slipped back to Enid and Alfred and Chip's sister Denise from time to time, but mostly we followed Chip as he stole money from a bartender, ran in the rain, heard about his revolting sexathon with his undergrad girlfriend and came into some money. And while I am definitely loving hating Chip. I think I'm more interested in hearing more from Denise. she seems to actually be a decent person. Like, since everyone is god-awful people in this book I'm guessing she's going to do/say something to change my mind soon, but for now her biggest crimes are giving Chip money and disappointing her mum at every turn. She seems to genuinely care for her dad (probably because her mum is such a bitch to her) and anyone who can cook is friend material in my book because, tasty benefits of friendships are my jam.

I'm a little unsure about Enid and Alfred. Alfred has sort of been set up as this distant, demanding father (at least in Chip's eyes) but he seems like a pretty cool guy. The scene where he buys the armchair to command a little agency in his home was brilliant, and I liked the little insights into his mind as he struggled to eat Denise's snacks or sit down on Chips sex-scent-stalking-couch. Maybe we'll find out that he was as viscous and mean as Chip remembers, but at this stage he just seems like a stubborn old man who, like many people from that generation, aren't exactly fantastic at showing their emotions. It actually broke my heart a little bit when he kept asking about Chip, and wondering where he was. If Franzen explores that a little more I'll maybe stop referring to Chip as Franzen in my head (nope, they'll always be the same guy to me).

I'm not a huge fan of Franzen's metaphors just yet - case in point: "Two empty hours were a sinus in which infections bred"  is that even a metaphor or was he stating a fact - but I do like the descriptions about Alfred's Parkinson's. The lost in the woods analogy about birds eating up the bread he left as markers, which I thought did a really fantastic job of laying out exactly how hard the disease would be to live with after 50+ years of health and mental acumen.

I'm not going to discuss Enid yet because she's not even a character, she's just a lazy cartoon of the evil meddling mother stereotype

And I think I'm just about done.

Wait. Notes! I have notes that I couldn't work out how to fit into this post!

~What the fuck does "satiny pecs" mean? Chip is offended by Denise wearing a tank top in a magazine picture and showing off her "satiny pecs". Is Franzen referring to Denise's breasts, because it's a reeeeaally creepy description.

~OF COURSE Chip's girlfriend is married to the fucking Prime Minister of Lithuania. He couldn't possibly just be a banker or lawyer. Jesus Christ Franzen, you better be going somewhere with this.

~Although, I really love Gitanas. I would be happy for an entire book about Gitanas. His sass to Chip about his "scars" is perfection (see title quote) - the guy was a freaking dissident and has been TORTURED. Ugh, Chip is the worst.

~Every now and then Franzen will include a single word in a characters accent, "I'm explaining to Cheep" "He's matooring" - either write in their accent all the time or never. It's just obnoxious otherwise, we know where they're from we can work the accents out for ourselves thank you very much.


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