A Few Corrections

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A Few Corrections is reminiscent of the movie Citizen Kane, in which the truth about a man's past is uncovered through a series of interviews with people who had been close to him. The first page of Brad Leithauser's novel contains a brief obituary of Wesley Sultan, a traveling salesman. At the beginning of each new chapter the same obituary appears with "a few corrections" added by the hand of the narrator, eventually identified as Wesley's son Luke, who explains that he is trying to understand himself through piecing together an understanding of his father. The first thirteen chapters consist of interviews with Wesley's brother, sister, former wives, a daughter, and other eccentric, alienated characters. A new and much longer obituary appears as the complete fourteenth chapter, telling a far more complicated story about Wesley Sultan, making him seem more human and less like an embalmed corpse laid out in a slumber parlor.

The revised obituary reveals many facts unknown to the god-fearing citizens of ultra-conservative Restoration, Michigan. Far from being an ingratiating, respectable, public-spirited pillar of the community, Wesley had a dark side which included pathological womanizing and callous neglect of the son investigating his past. The unusual technique employed in this sophisticated metafiction by the critically acclaimed Leithauser makes the story of an unsuccessful small-town salesman more intriguing than it would have been if narrated in a conventional fashion. In his final interview with Wesley's 250-pound homosexual, alcoholic brother, Luke confesses that the real motive behind his long, expensive quest has been to gather material for the very novel that has been holding the reader's interest up to those last few pages.