Thursday, 21 May 2015

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey- Review by Carlyn

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey is set in the 18th century in Australia and England. Oscar is a clergyman from England and Lucinda is an Australian heiress of a glass factory. Oscar is gangly, messy, awkward and spiritual. People find him to be eccentric and naïve. Lucinda is brash and dismissive of conventional norms. When the pair meets, they discover they both have a secret passion for gambling which is not becoming for a reverend and gentlewoman. Lucinda and Oscar make a bet which has a big impact on their lives.

I just finished reading Oscar and Lucinda today after starting the book last year. I would read a bit of it then not pick it up until months later. I think it is a good book but not compelling enough for me to binge read it. I thought the book was a long read, my book has 515 pages with small condensed writing. Peter Carey is quite descriptive but not too long winded. In some chapters, he would start off with the point of view from a secondary character which was something I liked as it gave a different perspective to the main characters.

In the beginning of the book, I was confused about the setting. I couldn't figure out if the events were happening in Australia or England. Lucinda and Oscar both live in the countryside as children and I didn't know whether Carey was describing Australia or England. Australia has land that can be described like an English countryside too. Australia was also a former colony of Britain and there are many Australian places named after British ones. I think at one point, Oscar goes to Melbourne to gamble or study and I didn't know whether it was Melbourne in Australia or elsewhere. It was only until Oscar and Lucinda board a boat from England to Sydney that I realized they were in England. I am dumb. I know that one day I will read this again and see how obvious the locations are and wonder how I could have missed it.

I found Oscar and Lucinda to be likeable as characters. I wish that the two were better at reading people and each other. They fall in love with each other but they are convinced the other doesn't feel the same way. If only they talked about it. There is a lot of pining in this book and it’s a shame that so much time is wasted on it.  

Another aspect I liked about the book was the exploration into Australia. It is set in colonial times and most of the land was still undiscovered by the colonists. I also see it as a sad time for Indigenous people for the loss of their land. Life was difficult for everyone for different reasons in the 18th century Australia. I also thought that for the new settlers in Australia, it was also a time of opportunity. In the book, there are a lot of people making their fortune in the new country.

 This book was adapted into a movie in 1997 staring Ralph Fiennes as Oscar and Cate Blanchett as Lucinda. The costume designer for the film won Best Costume Design at the 1998 Oscars. I want to see the movie some day as I think Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett make the perfect Oscar and Lucinda.

Overall, I thought Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey was a good book. It’s not one of my favourite books so I’m going to get rid of my copy. I have too many books that I cull any that I don’t absolutely love. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Entertainment Monday: They Might Be Giants Live in Concert (Monday 5/18/2015)

On April 22nd at the Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park New York I saw They Might Be Giants live in concert for the first time.  They Might Be Giants has a strong Cult Following and has even dipped occasionally in to the main stream music scene over their 33 years as an Alternative Indie Rock band.  The band was formed in 1982 by John Linnell and John Flansburgh and has churned out a great deal of music over the years, recently releasing their 16th studio album, Nanobots which they are currently promoting through the tour where they stopped in at the Upstate Concert Hall. 

The audience at the concert was one of the most diverse concert audiences I've ever seen relative to age and I'm sure that is part and parcel to how long the band has been around.  There were parents at the concert with their children of no more than 10-12 years old as well as audience members in their 60s.  

TMBG experiments a lot with their music and have a unique sound.  A vast majority of their songs are humorous and their lyrics and musical approach is intellectual.  Even their love songs aren't your run of the mill "love songs".  I think that since their inception they have been very much on the cutting edge of music performance because they defy any stereotypical "sound".  The band has even put out a Children's album called No back in 2002. 

My sister Heather was definitely the driving force behind my introduction to and love for They Might Be Giants when we were growing up on Long Island in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Every last Sunday of the month throughout the year TMGB performs in Brooklyn, New York and will play some of their full albums.  It's part of their deep seeded connections to the Brooklyn community for 30 plus years that helped to bring such a strong cult following for the band.  It's also a tribute to Linnell and Flansburgh that they have remained relevant for such a long period in the music scene.

I loved seeing them live in concert and wanted to share with our readers some of the music they performed live at the concert I went to.  Years ago TMGB had a thing called Dial a Song where fans could call a phone number and TMGB would play a song request and sometimes even improvise a song.  They still have the same option online at their website now via the internet.  They satired the whole dial-a-song feature at their live concert where intermittently the concert would be interrupted by a phone call from Siri the Iphone application and Siri would request that They Might Be Giants stop playing stuff off of their new album and just play their long standing hits.

Some TMGB fans have a likely annoying habit of shouting out requests for old TMGB hit songs during a concert.  So I think  that TMGB likes to poke a little bit of good natured fun at those fans with the Siri phone calls that happened during the concert.

Your On Fire off the album Nanobots

Underwater Woman

TMGB also did an awesome cover of Destiny's Child's hit song Bills, Bills, Bills, which (while not mentioned in the live performance I copied here) they said they randomly picked from a page off a music history log.

The audience called TMGB back on stage for two separate encores.  While during the half way portion of the concert they played Istanbul (Not Constantinople) most of their hit songs they saved for the encore performances.

Istanbul (Not Contantinople)

There are so many songs I could choose to share here given their long history and the 2 plus hour concert but three other songs that are favorites of mine that TMGB played during their encores were Birdhouse in Your Soul which was their biggest hit in the United States, We Want a Rock (off of Flood my favorite TMGB album) and my personal favorite Ana Ng during their second encore, which brought me great delight.

Birdhouse in Your Soul

 We Want a Rock

Ana Ng

One of the big reasons I wanted to see They Might Be Giants live outside of the fact that I love their music is because my twin brother Clifford and my sister Heather have seen them live in concert (Heather and her husband David several times) and by seeing them live this would be the only band that all three of us got to see live (albeit we've seen none of their concerts together).  Clifford watched TMGB perform around 20 years ago in Brooklyn with our best friend George while Clifford was attending St. John's University. 

Ultimately it was an awesome concert experience and probably the best $20.00 that I've spent in several years.  As TMGB performs regularly I would absolutely recommend that anyone in the North East United States (especially because they are based out of Brooklyn, NY as previously mentioned) get out to see them in concert.  Bring your family too because so much of their music is not age specific as far as enjoyment.  

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Cairns Holiday Story Part 1

My brother Paul and I decided to take a trip to Cairns during the April school holidays. I'm a teacher and he’s a teacher aide so we get the same holidays as the students. Cairns is located in north Queensland. It is an area known for its beaches, rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef. I wrote about some of its attractions in this post.


There was one small hitch on the night before we were going to leave for Cairns. My brother fell ill and had to be taken to hospital. In the afternoon, Paul called me over to his room to say he wasn't feeling very well. He had an ashen face and looked tired and weak. Paul told me his legs felt very weak. I thought it might be a circulation problem since he has some problems with his legs.  So, I made an appointment for him to see a doctor.

While driving to the doctor, I notice Paul not looking so good, so I thought we should go to the hospital instead. Dad made Paul take some aspirin and his heart medication as he was having chest pains. I argued against the heart medication because you shouldn't take medicine that is not yours especially if it for something important like your heart. Dad reasoned that his angina tablets relieve chest pain and that nothing would happen to Paul if he took it. Paul decided to take the aspirin and the angina tablets. He said he felt much better afterwards.
At hospital, Paul had to take a blood and urine sample. The doctors said that his heart was racing and he looked feverish. They also said it was amazing that he was still standing considering he took an aspirin, heart medication and a panadol (headache tablets) in a short time period.
Well, Paul had to have two IV drips and antibiotics. The doctors said that he had a viral infection and his body was trying to fight it off which was why his heart was racing and he was feverish. It was well past midnight when Paul finally went home and we had to be at the airport by 4 am.

In hospital, Paul concluded that he wasn't well enough to go on holiday. Dad was beside himself over Paul being in hospital, I deciding to go vacationing by myself and worst of all for dad was all the money wasted on the vacation! Fortunately, Paul felt a bit better when he came home and decided he could go to Cairns after all.

None of us had much sleep when we arrived at the airport. I felt a bit queasy but I couldn't decide whether it was coincidental or nerves. The flight to Cairns was pleasant which Paul and I were surprised about. We usually dislike plane travel but bear with it.

Next time: Cairns Adventure part 2

Monday, 11 May 2015

Entertainment Monday: The Avengers- Age of Ultron (11 May, 2015)

The new Avengers movie starts right into action with Iron Man, Black Widow, the Hulk , Hawk Eye and Thor battling to get into a stronghold to reclaim Loki’s sceptre. The sceptre is being experimented by Hydra and guarded by two mysterious twins with superpowers. The Avengers manage to get the staff and the adventure begins.


I thought it was a great movie and I think it is better than the first one. I liked how the Avengers are a good team of friends who banter, argue and support each other. In the movie, the Avengers inner demons are explored which influences their actions and motives. Tony Stark/Iron Man makes a decision which puts the world in danger and causes conflict with the rest of the team.  Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Bruce Banner/the Hulk have a budding romance but are hindered by their past. Steve Rogers/Captain America is at odds with Tony Stark’s decisions. Thor wonders whether he will be a good king to Asgard and fears that something more sinister in on the way. Lastly, it is revealed that Hawkeye has more to live for than the other Avengers know.

The action sequences are entertaining to watch and everyone gets their moment to shine. While there is a lot of violence, I would feel comfortable with watching this film with children. The Avengers fight an army of robots so there isn’t any bloodshed.  
The acting was good which was expected as the cast are notable actors. Elizabeth Olsen and  Aaron Taylor- Johnsonew played twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff also known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch fit nicely in with the rest of the crew. The two get to show off their powers to the fullest during the final battle sequence.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch 

As always, the world is saved by the end of the movie and with the promise a sequel. I think Marvel fans won’t be disappointed with this movie. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Ginger Factory

The last day trip my family and I did at the Sunshine Coast was visit The Ginger Factory. The Ginger Factory is a tourist attraction with a working factory, rides and restaurants. Entry to The Ginger Factory is free but the tours and rides cost money.
We bought a combo pass for all the tours and rides. The first thing we did was take a tour of the ginger factory. It was December 26th which is a public holiday known as Boxing Day in Australia, so the factory wasn’t operating. Boxing Day is traditionally a day where employers give a gift to their employees after Christmas to thank them for their service but it’s mostly a sale day where all the extra stock from Christmas is sold.

The factory had just opened so it was just my family and another family on the tour. The guide led us through the factory where the ginger is processed. The ginger is used in candies as well as for seasoning for other foods. They also supply ginger for other brands from all over the world.
After seeing the factory, we were lead to a tasting room to taste ginger products. We ate some meatballs with ginger, a few canapés and crystallized ginger. I heard coughing and gurgling from behind me and I saw that an eleven year girl was chocking. Luckily, she coughed out the meatball and her mum and the tour guide was on hand. I think her mum looked more annoyed than anything else.

The next tour we went to was the Superbee tour as The Ginger Factory also keeps bees. We learnt about honey production which was interesting but I have since forgotten. There was a honey collecting demonstration which I was kind of nervous about but no bees escaped and the bees were in an enclosure.

When the tour had finished we decided to go on the ride called Overboard. The Overboard ride is a gentle ride on a boat that is on a track. The Overboard ride tells the story of a gingerbread man who escaped from some bakers and travels around the world. As it was Boxing Day, we were allowed unlimited rides. It is not an exciting ride and I think small children would like it more but we rode the ride three times just to make the most out of it. I thought the puppets were very good and it was fun to spot where the gingerbread man and bakers and notice things we missed the first time around.

We also went on the Ginger train which is a hundred years old sugar cane train. The train went around a track around the factory. The best part was when it went behind the building and their free range chickens appeared. The chickens roam about the park and get excited when the train appears. They ran after the train and the driver threw feed out to them.
The last thing we did at the Ginger Factory was to look at the gift shops. They have a main gift shop selling ginger and honey products as well as others selling homewares, spices, car memorabilia and dolls.   

Monday, 4 May 2015

Entertainment Monday: Jon Bear's Baseball Preview Part II and Part III (Monday 5/4/2015)

Entertainment Monday: Major League Baseball Preview Parts II and III

I am a little bit late with the remainder of my Major League Baseball Preview, so I have decided to combine parts two and three of my Major League Baseball Preview, which includes my American League Preview as
well as my playoff picks for the 2015 season. I try not to go along too much with trendy picks as it seems that the trendy pick rarely comes out on top at the end of the season. With the baseball season being so long it should also be acknowledged how much health plays a factor in success or failure. This is especially true of pitching staffs relative to the drastic number of arm surgeries that major league baseball pitchers have accrued over the last decade now. So hopefully those little caveats are not perceived as excuses, but fairly considered in the difficulty of making such predictions. Any detractors or those in agreement are always willing to voice there opinions on my picks should they wish to. Without further ado here are my American League predictions followed by my 2015 playoff picks.

American League Eastern Division:

1st Place: Baltimore Orioles
2nd Place: Toronto Bluejays
3rd Place: Boston Redsox
4th Place: New York Yankees
5th Place: Tampa Bay Rays

A.L. East Review: This is one of the most difficult divisions to pick as none of the teams should overwhelm any of the others from a talent perspective. With all the teams so tightly packed there is little doubt that injuries will play a bigger part here then in any other division. The Baltimore Orioles win with power and with relief pitching and good defense the last several years. With Gold Glove caliber players at Shortstop, Third base, Center field and Catcher and a reliable bull pen, the Orioles rarely give leads away late. I believe they have enough difference makers to carry them to the division title. The Toronto Bluejays also win with power, but they do not have the bullpen or defense that the O's possess. With Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes and Russell Martin the Bluejays lineup matches up well against almost anyone East or West of Detroit. I think the shortcomings of the pitching staff will make it a challenge to win the division but I see a team capable of remaining in the playoff conversation for most of the season. The Boston Redsox are also a pick that a lot of people think could make some noise and win the A.L. East this year. I just do not see enough starting pitching in Boston. While the lineup is very talented leaders like "Big Papi" David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are no longer spring chickens. The Redsox should be involved in a bunch of barn burners and high scoring games this season. The wear and tear that the bullpen will face this season will be too much for the Beaneaters to overcome. The New York Yankees always seem to find a way to remain in the playoff race, even when you think they are washed up and left for dead. Here's a team who's starting pitcher's arms are falling off and who's offensive is older than Santa Claus. With their team health more in question then a Sickle Cell child at Rugby Camp I just don't see the Yankees hanging in the race come the second half of the season. The Tampa Bay Rays have a ton of young and talented starting pitching. They always draft well and put themselves in a position to compete. I just don't see enough offense in Tampa Bay especially when they have to face the rest of the dangerous lineups in the A.L. East. Team leader Evan Longoria has always been on the cusp of super star status but always seems to fall short of it. The Rays will need him to step up into the elite stratosphere of hitters to have any chance to compete long term.

American League Central Division

1st Place: Cleveland Indians
2nd Place: Chicago Whitesox
3rd Place: Detroit Tigers
4th Place: Kansas City Royals
5th Place: Minnesota Twins

A.L. Central Review: I think this is probably the second most difficult division to predict after the A.L. East, but instead of being difficult because of a jumble of mediocrity the A.L. Central is tough to pick because of the high quality clubs and managers in the division. Right now my predictions for this division aren't looking the best, but it's still early in the year and there is a long way to go. I promised to stick to my guns too when I wrote up my review, so in spite of early season standings I have no issues with staying true to what I thought back in early April. The Cleveland Indians have great young starting pitching and enough talent on offense to be special. Particularly if they can get bounce back seasons from Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Michael Brantley is turning himself into a legit MVP candidate and Jason Kluber might push for two consecutive Cy Young awards as the League's best pitcher. The Chisox also have some young studs at the top of their pitching staff. An off season overhaul of the offense also makes the lineup much more potent and dangerous. Jose Abreu does not have to carry the team at the plate this season. The Detroit Tigers are always dangerous and a force to be reckoned with. Especially when you have Miguel Cabrera the best player in baseball save for Mike Trout of the Angels. The starting pitching took a major hit though losing Max Scherzer to free agency and Rick Porcello in the deal to acquire Yoenis Cespedes. The Tigers bullpen has always been a disaster that has let them down come playoff time. Losing Joe Nathan doesn't help an already gigantic question mark at the end of games. The Tigers just don't have enough pitching to sustain their hot start this year. Okay, I have to admit picking the Kansas City Royals to finish fourth right now isn't looking so smart. Can this magical offensive performance and power hold up though? The Royals win with relief pitching and speed, and now they have power and on base skills too. The track record suggests that the power at least will eventually fall off. I'm not sold on the Royals starting pitching staff. They have a spunky team though that kind of reminds me of my 1984/1985 Mets, so I may be underestimating what this team is capable of. The Minnesota Twins were an easy pick for last in the Central division. They may have the best Minor League system in all of baseball right now, but a lot of those young players will not see action until the second half of the season at the earliest and by then the Twinkies will be way out of the race.

American League Western Division:

1st Place: Seattle Mariners
2nd Place: Oakland Athletics
3rd Place: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4th Place: Houston Astros
5th Place: Texas Rangers

A.L. West Review: The Seattle Mariners have arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Felix Hernandez and arguably the best pure hitter in Robinson Cano. The addition of Nelson Cruz gives the M's the legit power bat they've been lacking in the lineup. So long as Nelson can keep from getting another steroid suspension. >.< The pitching staff behind Hernandez is good enough to make an impact, especially in Safeco Field where home runs go to die. The Oakland Athletics always find away to stay in contention. Billy Beane has taken the wrecking ball to last years team. The replacements for Derrick Norris and Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes do not really turn heads but Beane gets baseball players who fit his mold of on base machines with power potential. Ike Davis, Bret Lawrie Sam Fuld and Billy Butler are just quality baseball players albeit not star caliber. The pitching staff is always underrated and there is a ton of starting pitching depth after stars like Sonny Grey and Scott Kazmir. The L.A. Angels have Mike Trout and not much else. Trout on his own may be good enough for a third place finish. High spending upon aging free agent superstars like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are coming back to haunt the team. Jared Weaver probably does more with less than any pitcher in the game but the staff behind him leaves a lot to be desired. The Houston Astros are a young team on the rise (perhaps more on the rise than even I thought with there current 10 game winning streak and first place spot) but they still strike out way too much to make a late season push in the A.L. west. Collin McHugh (former NY Met who's blog I once featured here) has become a staff ace and the rest of the Astros young staff is impressive as well. I like the Astros hitters too but outside of Jose Altuve pretty much every player in the lineup is capable of the Golden Sombraro (four strikeouts) on any given night. Look out for the Astros in 2016 though. The Texas Rangers are an unmitigated disaster, especially after the loss of staff ace Yu Darvish for the season to Tommy John surgery. Even with Darvish the Rangers were in trouble. Their highly regarded minor league system has yet to bear fruit and the offense lacks the pop it used to have.

Playoff Predictions:

National League Wildcards: New York Mets and San Diego Padres

Wildcard Winner: New York Mets 1-0

N.L. First Round :

New York Mets vs. Washington Nationals (Nationals win series 4-2)

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Pirates win series 4-2)

National League Championship Matchup:

Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates (Pirates win 4-3)

American League Wildcards: Chicago Whitesox and Oakland Athletics

Wildcard Winner: Oakland Athletics 1-0

A.L. First Round:

Oakland Athletics vs. Cleveland Indians (Indians win series 4-2)

Baltimore Orioles vs. Seattle Mariners (Mariners win series 4-3)

American League Championship Matchup:

Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Indians (Indians win 4-1)


Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cleveland Indians

CHAMPION: Cleveland Indians (4-3)

Everyone talks about the Cubs ridiculous World Series Championship drought but the Cleveland Indians finally end their long Championship drought of 67 years (no titles since 1948)

There you have it folks. Read it and weep. Unless your an Indians fan,
and then those tears can be tears of joy! =)

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen- Review by Carlyn and Jon *with spoilers*

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen tells the story of a dysfunctional American family. The Lamberts consist of parents Enid and Alfred and their adult children, Gary, Chip and Denise. Alfred suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and the family struggle to help him. Enid and Alfred want to maintain their independence but it is clear that they need more help than they will admit. They all have secrets from each other that lead to depression and resentment.

The Lamberts

Alfred is a former railway engineer who suddenly quit his job instead of accepting a promotion. His family do not understand his decision and resent him for his choice. Alfred is a restrained man who has strong morals. His family sometimes think he’s hard to please and cold hearted.

Enid is an old fashioned housewife and a hoarder. She has conservative views on life and is dismayed at how her children have turned out. Enid lies about her children to her friends in order to project the image of a perfect family.

Gary is the oldest Lambert child. He works as an investment banker. Gary works hard to maintain an affluent image and to not resemble his father in anyway. He is depressed but in denial. Gary’s wife and kids think he’s paranoid.

Chip is a bit of a sleazebag and amoral person. He is a former Literature professor who goes to Lithuania to dupe foreign investors for the Lithuanian government.

Denise is an up and coming celebrity chef whose love life is a mess when she comes between a married couple.

Carlyn’s thoughts:

I heard that there were attempts to have this book made into a movie. I think it would make a great movie and I can easily see Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in it. The book is raw and dramatic and there are some funny moments as well. There were times when I found the characters unlikeable because they were so unkind or resentful towards each other. The Lambert siblings found their parents to be overbearing and annoying.  The parents were disapproving of their children’s life decisions.

 In addition, they all make some poor choices that cause them some stress. The book alternates between the characters in each chapter so as I read the chapters I began to understand the characters motives and be a bit more sympathetic towards them. I found the problem with the family was that they are not honest or accepting of each other.

I’m more interested in Young Adult fiction where the characters are not as messed up so maybe that is why this book didn’t appeal to me. I find that YA fiction has more likeable characters and they have a determination to resolve their problems. Also they tend to have sidekicks who act as their conscience and prevent the protagonists from too much damage. The Lamberts don’t really have anyone to talk to and they don’t talk to each other so I can understand why they make some poor decisions.  

I thought the book was well written and each character had their own voice.  I could relate to the family dynamics and how you can love someone and be annoyed by them too. I thought some parts of the book were boring to read about such as when Gary and Denise go to a neurological seminar and there is lot of medical jargon. Another moment I found hard to read involved faeces.

I felt hopeful at the end of the novel when the characters started to overcome their problems and change their attitudes, especially Enid.  While not all the problems are resolved I get a sense the characters want to live more positive lives at the end. 

Jon's thoughts

If you enjoy good character development then Franzen is a writer you'll like.  He does a wonderful job of description in scene setting and in his development of the personalities of each member of the Lambert family.  It's possible the descriptive nature of his writing can be a bit of overkill at times for some readers. 

If you have a good understanding of the bible I think it would probably be an asset in reading The Corrections, as it would be truthfully in so many novels.  The Corrections is set in the early 1990s and seems largely to be a commentary not only on dysfunctional family dynamics but also a dysfunctional America that's headed for a crash. The Lamberts grow up in an innocent Midwest Protestant American lifestyle. You'll note how Christ is the Lamb of God and of course a symbol of innocence.  The story is suggestive of the fact that when the Lambert Children move away from their parents to the East Coast they become corrupted by this distancing from the wholesome Midwestern values when thrust into Corporate America .

C.S. Lewis' book the Lion the Which and the Wardrobe  which is a biblical allegory also plays a large part in the story.  The book is being read by Gary's son Jonah and Aslan, the Lion is the name of one of the drugs used to try and bring competency to patients suffering from dementia. 

A big theme I could not help but consider as well when I read the novel given the dysfunction of Gary, Enid, Chip, Arthur and Denise was the second law of thermodynamics or the law of entropy, which suggest that out of chaos comes order. The lives of the characters that seem to be most chaotic, Chip's life, which is rife with failure and an insatiable sexual appetite and Enid's, which had been dominated by her husband Alfred in health and later dominated by Alfred in his sickness seem to become most ordered by the end of the novel while the lives of those who might appear least chaotic and more stable, those of Gary who has a stable job as a banker and Denise a successful career as a cook move more towards disorder. 

I found Chip and Alfred to be the most interesting characters in the story.  Alfred is presented as having been so domineering by all the characters with the exception of Denise and yet we see him at a stage in his life, when he is losing his mental faculty, where he is the complete opposite of a domineering and in control figure.   The chaos and dysfunction of Alfred's deteriorating mind seems to be a microcosm of the entire family dynamic.  Chip is probably the least redeemable character when you read the book early on.  He seems to lack moral value, responsibility and decency.  Gary and Denise appear to be the stereotypical models of responsibility. 

At the end of the book though when everyone was fearing who would be responsible for Alfred's care, it was Chip (the least likely of all the children) who visited Alfred in the hospital and stayed with Enid to care for Alfred.  Not only that, but Chip actually starts a family, gets married and seems to have his life back on path by the end of the book.  Denise ends the story confused sexually involved in affairs with women and men and disgraced professionally having lost her job.  Gary ends the story being the epitome of his father Alfred who he was so trying to avoid becoming.  He's depressed and is controlling and domineering in his relationship with his wife Caroline and with his children.  He's also lost a good deal of money in a failing market.  Enid is finally in control of her own life and has the freedom of movement, thought and action that escaped her while living with Alfred her whole life.

It's interesting in the Christmas Dinner near the end of the story that Enid was working so hard at organizing when Chip who has felt like such a failure and loser realizes that he is the happiest person at the Dinner table.

Ultimately I found that all the characters did a horrible job of understanding each other's point of view.  They all possessed a strong sense of selfishness about them and their situations.  So they are all unlikeable, and yet they all have qualities too that make sense.  Not enough to really redeem them, but enough to bring some level of empathy for each of them. 

I think Franzen is very talented and a lot of people would love The Corrections.  I came away from it feeling like it was a good, very thought provoking but unspectacular read.