The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
First time I ever read Franzen, and I don’t if I’m a cliche worthy of Guy in Your MFA, but goddamn I dug it. The story, like most of the Oscar noms this year, really fucking meandered. But it’s the characters. And as I read in another review, it’s totally motherfucking schadenfreude. I hated everyone in this book. Even when I was starting to feel sympathetic, another monolithic chapter would come along and just churn my stomach with what a fucking asshole they were.
I’m working with a story development group, where we read screenplays and discuss their salient points, and one of the screenplays I submitted had hateful characters. Because that’s what I love. I love miserable people. I guess that trend is waning. But I felt like grabbing this huge tome and bashing my fellow writers in the face with it, screaming, “DO YOU SEE? DO YOU SEE? CRITICALLY FUCKING ACCLAIMED.”
But that was 2001. And I even read a review of a forthcoming book that touted it as “The Corrections but with characters you can stand.” So maybe The Reign of the Hateful has passed. Still, while it just seemed to keep going and going, I was okay with that. And it was amazing seeing a character suck the rootability and joy from everyone in masterstrokes. All families are selfish, but some are selfish in phenomenal ways.