The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

“Whether anybody was home meant everything to a house. It was more than a major fact: it was the only fact.The family was the house’s soul.The waking mind was like the light in a house.The soul was like the gopher in his hole.Consciousness was to brain as family was to house.Aristotle: Suppose the eye were an animal – sight would be its soul.”

I’ve always had a fascination with gazing into people’s windows, especially back in New Jersey, where my parents live sort of out in the country, in what used to be farmland. We’d be driving home at night and all the roads would be dark except for the lit windows of the houses we passed. And I’d look in and feel this longing – I could never explain it.

It wasn’t like I wanted to be with those people, I was quite happy exactly where I was, in the car with my family, gazing in on these strangers in their bright houses. But I’d feel something, a pulling in my chest, an emptiness under my breastbone.

Then I read the above passage from The Corrections and I thought maybe that was it: I was catching a glimpse not just of people’s lives but of souls, a house’s soul, and so what else can I feel but an inexplicable longing when seeing something like a soul?

Also in the book, one of the characters has Parkinson’s disease and hallucinations. For instance, in the part I’m reading now, he’s on a cruise ship and is hallucinating that a giant turd is taunting him, and he’s trying to put on another adult diaper and can’t because of his tremors. Makes me think of my former mother-in-law (the hallucinations, not the turd).

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