The Corrections - by Jonathan Franzen

She'd always been a pretty woman, but to Chip she was so much a personality and so little anything else that even staring straight at her he had no idea what she really looked like.

Not being theatrical, Chip felt disadvantaged around people who were.

What made drugs perpetually so sexy was the opportunity to be other. Years after he'd figured out that pot only made him paranoid and sleepless, he still got hard-ons at the thought of smoking it. Still lusted for that jailbreak.

What Gary hated most about the Midwest was how unpampered and unprivileged he felt in it. St. Jude in its optimistic egalitarianism consistently failed to accord him the respect to which his gifts and attainments entitled him.

For Gary a key element of not being a striver, a perspirer, was to dress as if he didn't have to work at all: as if he were a gentleman who just happened to enjoy coming to the office and helping other people. As if noblesse oblige.

She was sleeping now, silently, like a person feigning sleep.

She didn't care much for the reality of this moment.

It was in their nature to throw their arms around him, but this nature had been corrected out of them.

Alfred believed that the real and the true were a minority that the world was bent on exterminating. It galled him that romantics like Enid could not distinguish the false from the authentic: a poor-quality, flimsily stocked, profit-making "museum" from a real, honest railroad

It rankled her that people richer than she were so often less worthy and attractive. More slobbish and louty. Comfort could be found in being poorer than people who were smart and beautiful. But to be less affluent than these T-shirted, joke-cracking fatsos--

They rode an elevator in silence. Too-precipitous intimacy had left in its wake a kind of dirty awkwardness.

Apparently she had that ability of the enviable, of the non-midwestern, of the moneyed, to assess her desires without regard to social expectations or moral imperatives.

Fear of humiliation and the craving for humiliation are closely linked: psychologists know it, Russian novelists know it.

"I wonder if we're depressed because there's no frontier anymore. Because we can't pretend anymore there's a place no one's been. I wonder if aggregate depression is on the rise, worldwide."

He had good days and bad days. It was as if when he lay in bed for a night certain humors pooled in the right or wrong places, like marinade around a flank steak, and in the morning his nerve endings either had enough of what they needed or did not; as if his mental clarity might depend on something as simple as whether he'd lain on his side or on his back the night before; or as if, more disturbingly, he were a damaged transistor radio which after a vigorous shaking might function loud and clear or spew nothing but a static laced with unconnected phrases, the odd strain of music.

Life, in her experience, had a kind of velvet luster. You looked at yourself from one perspective and all you saw was weirdness. Move your head a little bit, though, and everything looked reasonably normal.

One of the great things about being Catholic is you get to have saints, like St. Jude." "Patron saint of hopeless causes?" "Exactly. What's a church for if not lost causes?" "I feel this way about sports teams," Denise said. "That the winners don't need your help."

It's not clear to me why I'm required to come to St. Jude on some specific date. If Mom and Dad were my children, whom I'd created out of nothing without asking their permission, I could understand being responsible for them. Parents have an overwhelming Darwinian hard-wired genetic stake in their children's welfare. But children, it seems to me, have no corresponding debt to their parents.

It warmed his Foucaultian heart, in a way, to live in a land where property ownership and the control of public discourse were so obviously a matter of who had the guns.

The human species was given dominion over the earth and took the opportunity to exterminate other species and warm the atmosphere and generally ruin things in its own image, but it paid this price for its privileges: that the finite and specific animal body of this species contained a brain capable of conceiving the infinite and wishing to be infinite itself.

This camel of disappointment balked at the needle's eye of Enid's willingness to apprehend it.

His expression was like a perspectival regression toward a vanishing point of misery.

He already had one "alternative" sibling and he didn't need another. It frustrated him that people could so happily drop out of the world of conventional expectations; it undercut the pleasure he took in his home and job and family; it felt like a unilateral rewriting, to his disadvantage, of the rules of life.

The odd truth about Alfred was that love, for him, was a matter not of approaching but of keeping away. Chip was so busy feeling misunderstood that he never noticed how badly he himself misunderstood his father.

His impressions were fresh in a way that he would either remember all his life or instantly forget. A brain could absorb only so many impressions before it lost the ability to decode them, to put them in coherent shape and order.