Best of the 00’s – The Corrections and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Next on my big list was The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen. Of all of the big name books I’ve read this summer, I spent the longest on this one. A small part of that was due to the release of the new Murakami book, because that was two days I was reading without making any headway here, but by and large it was just because this book is a cover-to-cover depressing slog.

It’s the story of a family of which each member has crippling personality problems that threaten to destroy his or her life. Even the family member with Parkinson’s disease is shown to have been a rigid asshole when he was healthy. And although things sort of work out in the end, or we are led to believe that they are going to work out in the end, it isn’t really because people overcome their issues and change, it’s really just because now things are working out again.

This is the first of the books on this list whose presence I question. I don’t know what’s supposed to be revealing or instructive about it, and I don’t find it to be charming or insightful. It certainly wasn’t a delight to read.

I’d say go ahead and pass on it.

When I told my wife the next book was Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, she made a face at me. She may have even made a groaning sound. It is even remotely possible that she gave a thumbs-down, then surrounded the down thumb with the fingers of her other hand and let it fall away while making a raspberry noise. She’d read it, and she was not a fan.

The story is a tale told by an autistic boy (or maybe something else. It isn’t clearly spelled out in the text, but that’s the impression I think we’re supposed to get) about his investigation into the death of a neighbor’s dog, and the bigger revelations that come from that investigation. Because of the nature of the narrator, the structure is unusual, although I think the author makes considerable concessions toward traditional story structure by giving his narrator a love of mystery stories and a desire to imitate them.

I find it unlikely that the character we get is a good representation of the inner life of a young autistic man, but it’s possible that it is a fair description of what it’s like to live with and care for one.

I couldn’t figure out, when I had finished, what my wife objected to so strongly, and she read it long enough ago that she didn’t want to or couldn’t remember well enough to give specifics. But I both thought it was a good book and enjoyed reading it, which makes it, I suppose, the antithesis of the other book in this post.

Go for it!

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