Friday, January 12, 2007

On The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Television news generally does a terrible job of covering policy stories. Policy – government, foreign, and otherwise - is best discussed in journals, or at least, in magazines or newspapers, since the video footage necessary to make TV news work either distracts the viewer from the issues, or worse, subverts the meaning of the story. Even the best TV coverage of policy, the coverage that goes beyond eight-second sound bytes, the coverage with credible sources, the coverage with balanced interviews and helpful graphics, (the coverage on CBC), doesn’t compare to a well-structured, well-written print article. It’s simply the wrong medium for the message.

The same thing applies to blogging about a novel, especially a novel like Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. How can a medium best suited for short commentary and the occasional link ever give due attention to a book that is over six hundred pages long, a book that contains sentences loaded enough to base an entire graduate thesis on, a book that is at once funnier than classic Simspons, sadder than a lovelorn Wilco ballad, and closer to reality than anything on CNN? As you’ve probably guessed, it can’t.

The Corrections is the kind of artistic achievement that spawns new theories of American literature. It’s the kind of artistic achievement that allows reviewers to write things like “All who care about the direction of this world must read this book,” and get away with it. It’s the kind of artistic achievement that always overwhelms me. In the English classes I took at university, there were always books (White Noise, The Sun Also Rises, Anne of Green Gables) I loved so much that writing about them became impossible. It was as if I became so deeply involved with the text that I couldn’t dig my way out to explain it. And for those books, for those classes, I was allowed to write essays, with citations, and long quotes taken directly from the author. You don’t, you can't, write English essays on blogs.

According to the back cover of my paperback edition, “The Corrections quickly became one of the most talked-about books of the year” when it was published “to international acclaim.” If this is true (and when has the back cover of a novel ever been known to contain untruths?), then I’m certain a Google search will provide you with plenty of serious discussion about the book, should you be interested in it. Nevertheless, I have chosen to write about The Corrections by not writing about The Corrections at all. Because the blog is not the place for such discussion.

In other words, ban television news.

2 Comments:

Blogger Leaf said...

So what's it about?

3:20 PM  
Blogger barry said...

Glad to see you read "The Corrections." I read it this summer after it sat on my shelf for two years and I couldn't put it down. A huge recommendation for your next book, though: "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. It will re-reinvent lit after Franzen's take.

7:51 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home