I reread Franzen's The Corrections as a warm up to Freedom. I have to confess I couldn't stay with The Corrections years ago when I took a shot at it. I just wasn't ready for all that back story. But this time I was. Maybe I was more determined, maybe I just a better reader. I don't know. But I finished the book and of course I had a very strong reaction to the ending chapter which to me was the book.
To me it is a Midwestern novel. No surprise here since the Lamberts are from the Midwest and the novel pivots around getting together for a last Christmas before Albert the father goes permanently insane and general implosion occurs among the Lambert siblings. The majority of the novel takes place in the East where the Lambert children struggle through their lives. Like The Great Gatsby we are watching that essentially Midwestern morality bang up against the early twenty first century decadence of America before 9/11. In this way we have an unfair advantage, we know about the planes to come.
But the novel circles back to St Jude and here is where the novel shines. The last days of Albert Lambert and truly the last days of twentieth century America play out in the Lambert household as a movie that has become old, sentimental, and horribly dysfunctional. Nothing fits anymore and the ragged warmth of the Midwest is much like the warm ragged center of the world for Nick Caraway when he returned from the war in Gastby. The house and the rituals are all in place but they are vestiges of a world that no longer exists. Truly, the horror of the last pages is no one has any place anymore in the world. The stage is set for that fateful day in September
The Corrections is a perfect snapshot of our pre 9/11 World . More than that it pegs that WW II generations fierce devotion to ritual at all costs and shows the futility of those rituals in a world that no longer is anchored in the American century. Lets see where Freedom picks up.
William Hazegrove's novel Rocket Man is due on in the fall.
A Catcher in the Rye for the forty something generation