Crossroads: when Franzen is good, he’s very, very good

Jonathan Franzen portrays a family crisis with themes of sexuality, faith and shame

Jonathan Franzen: While he now steers clear of the “fancy words” that alienated some readers of his earlier work, his style can’t help but insist on its cleverness. Photograph: David Levenson/Getty

Jonathan Franzen: While he now steers clear of the “fancy words” that alienated some readers of his earlier work, his style can’t help but insist on its cleverness. Photograph: David Levenson/Getty

Published a week before 9/11, it’s hard to believe that it’s been two decades since Jonathan Franzen wrote The Corrections, his National Book Award-winning meisterwerk. Through the story of the fictional Lambert family, The Corrections explored the excesses of 1990s America. It was followed by Freedom (2010), which covered the Bush era, and the more plot-driven Purity (2015), which took on digital surveillance.

The risk of the state-of-the-union novel is that it dates quickly. If The Corrections was a blockbuster despite Enid Lambert proclaiming that disasters “no longer seemed to befall the United States”, it was thanks to the strength of its characters, and perhaps a tinge of nostalgia for a time when the Twin Towers still stood.

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