I just finished The Corrections, which I picked up for $1 at the booksale per Sean’s endorsement, even though after reading the dust jacket I felt pretty confident the whole thing would just be way more reality than I wanted to deal with and would consequently depress me.
Fortunately, no. The multitude of problems encountered by the characters, though mostly realistic, are set in a Foster-Wallian framework of fantastical scientific breakthroughs (a chemical process to change your personality, a drug to eradicate shame, plus a kind of lurking-in-the-background implied corporate conspiracy) which make the dementia and breast fixations and Lithuanian currency crashes easier to deal with, emotionally.
Franzen’s great strength, apart from writing complex sentences that are easy to follow, is his characterizations. I sympathized with everyone, even though everyone behaved horribly, because their internal monologues make sense of their behavior. It confirmed my secret Pollyanna belief that everyone in the world is basically wonderful if you could just get inside their heads to see it.
Read The Corrections if you liked Infinite Jest but felt like David Foster Wallace was maybe laughing at you a little for reading it.
And a side-plug: from this experiment I have learned to trust Sean’s opinion, which I was pretty confident about anyway. Trust Sean if you like things that are good, things that are funny, or things that are Irish.