I’ve been feeling a little more down than usual lately and, as always when I’m supine in the dark on the cellar floor, I scour the universe for reasons. This is usually a chickie/agg exercise however, because I can never put my finger on whether it’s, for example, the depression (aka The Black Dog – see post “The Black Dog in the Kitchen with the Dentist") that is causing physical pain or is it the other way around? Or is it the meds I take for pain that cause depression? Or is it the food that causes the inflammation that causes the pain that cause the depression? I haven’t had any more than a single glass of wine at any one sitting for over year now. That’s pulling back from almost a fifth of sake almost every night. (Ugh. Wait a minute! No wonder I feel fuckin strange. Where's my sake?).
It might be because I just moved into a (potentially) gorgeous house on a long green double lot called Coon Hollow. Coon Hollow. Yep, gonna be firin’ up the still, pickin’ some geetars, fiddles, banjos, dobros, cuttin’ us up some chaw just a 5 minute walk from Stinson Beach, CA: 5 miles of pristine walking sand along the mighty Pacific just south of Point Baulinas and the Point Reyes National Seashore. There’s a small town with a real bar (as if I give a shit about bars), a convenience store, a couple of touristy gift shops,a bookstore, two art galleries, a surf shop, a 4-start restaurant, a hippie health clinic, a deli, a post office and a fire station. It’s very much like Carmel never was or shall ever be, but the water is just as cold. I live here now with a beautiful woman who never whines, complains or asks me to do anything I don’t want to do, and my brown dog, Boo, who is constantly asking me to do things that I not only don’t want to do but can’t, because as I’ve said time and time again I am not a dog!
I wish I was a dog. I wish I was a dog because dog’s can’t read, and therefore I would not be subjecting myself to the truly masterful fiction of Mr. Jonathan Franzen, who, if I understand it correctly from being properly corrected in The Corrections, being human in America is the last thing any-self respecting dog would want to be.
Thus my depression. I had been reading The Corrections slowly, at a dog’s pace, so I guess I wasn’t really reading much at all, since dog’s can’t read. Oh wait. Dammit! I’m not a dog. But if I were I was not exactly taking to it like a bone, because the only thing to bite into was this gorgeous, lyrical prose, with character’s reading from Hollywood filmscripts, and an almost scary command of the English language. It’s not as if we’re not warned this might be a bit vapid. In the beginning of the section entitled “The Failures” one of the principals (Chip) rants for 17 lines in the middle of an already rushed conversation that concludes with the idea that he “is personally losing the battle with a commercialized, medicated, totalitarian modernity right this instant,” Red flags start popping up out of the top of my head, right through the snowy rooftop, because everybody knows no real human being, nobody you’ve ever known or will know will ever speak that way. Normal people just don’t talk like that. When Franzen turns the volume up to 10 in the first 1000 words it becomes pretty obvious that nothing from this point forward is to be taken seriously, because these people aren’t to be mistaken for real people. What a relief!
After this epiphany I continue reading and the depression worsens. Now I’m reading about Gary, who is in major denial about his own depression, and his wife AND kids decides that they should start monitoring his drinking with a surveillance system in the kitchen! But wait! Does Franzen want us to believe that this could actually happen, that there are people that slimy? Of course not.
But by now the relentless cynicism and the suffocating snarkiness has completely drowned out all the awesome mastery of this gifted writer. Franzen’s effortless command of the fiction writer’s tools had me in slackjawed wonder after the first few pages – I knew this was gonna be important! But, like a Dirk Diggler in doe-eyed love with his giant dick, Franzen works it, and works it, and works it until the “wow” factor is more of an “enough already” plea. What starts as powerful cultural satire and stark insight into human behavior quickly degenerates into a flawlessly constructed circus of stupid people doing stupid things.
And that, my little limbolanders, is almost more depressing than this mean-spirited, cold-hearted indictment of contemporary American culture called The Corrections. And you, young Jonny, are to blame!
Break out the Dr. Seuss and hand me an ice cream sandwich! I’m turning over a new leaf!