Maureen Corrigan

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR's Fresh Air, is a critic-in-residence and lecturer at Georgetown University. She is an associate editor of and contributor to Mystery and Suspense Writers (Scribner) and the winner of the 1999 Edgar Award for Criticism, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. Corrigan's literary memoir, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading! was published in 2005. Corrigan is also a reviewer and columnist for The Washington Post's Book World. In addition to serving on the advisory panel of The American Heritage Dictionary, she has chaired the Mystery and Suspense judges' panel of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

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3:42pm

Mon December 15, 2014
Book Reviews

Sometimes You Can't Pick Just 10: Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2014

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 1:12 pm

Rows of characters enjoying reading books.
Gustav Dejert Ikon Images/Getty Images

For this year's Best Books of the Year list, I reject the tyranny of the decimal system. Some years it's simply more than 10. Here, then, are my top 12 books of 2014. All of the disparate books on my list contain characters, scenes or voices that linger long past the last page of their stories. In fact, The Empire of Necessity by Greg Grandin, which is my pick for Book of the Year, came out in January and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

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3:04pm

Thu December 4, 2014
Book Reviews

Set In Appalachia, This Rewarding Story Collection Is 'Rich And Strange'

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 3:29 pm

Ron Rash is a poet, novelist and short-story writer whose 2009 novel Serena was a New York Times bestseller. Rash's signature subject is life in Appalachia, past and present.
Ulf Andersen Courtesy of Ecco

Expect to be good for nothing for a long time after you read Ron Rash. His writing is powerful, stripped down and very still: It takes you to a land apart, psychologically and geographically, since his fiction is set in Appalachia.

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2:52pm

Mon November 24, 2014
Books

Decades Later, Laurie Colwin's Books 'Will Not Let You Down'

Colwin was known for making her own baby food for her daughter, Rosa, pictured here in 1985.
Courtesy of Open Road Media

Many years ago, Laurie Colwin began an essay she wrote about the magic of roast chicken like this: "There is nothing like roast chicken. It is helpful and agreeable, the perfect dish no matter what the circumstances. Elegant or homey, a dish for a dinner party or a family supper, it will not let you down." Substitute the phrase "Laurie Colwin's writing" for the words "roast chicken," take some poetic allowances with the word "dish," and you'll have an approximate description of Colwin's own elusive magic.

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2:57pm

Mon November 10, 2014
Book Reviews

Superstorm Sandy Inspires Bleak, Poetic Landscapes In 'Let Me Be Frank'

Richard Ford won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his novel Independence Day. His latest book takes his beloved hero, Frank Bascombe, into his sunset years.
Greta Rybus Courtesy of Harper Collins

It's such a goofy title. Let Me Be Frank with You is the latest installment in the odyssey of Frank Bascombe, the New Jersey Everyman Richard Ford introduced almost 30 years ago in his novel, The Sportswriter. Two more Frank Bascombe novels followed, and now this: a brilliant collection of four interconnected short stories of about 60 pages each in which Ford is indeed "being Frank" Bascombe with us once again, as well as being "frank" about all sorts of touchy topics in America, such as race, politics, the economy, old age and the oblivion that awaits us all.

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2:19pm

Wed October 29, 2014
Author Interviews

The Incredible Story Of Chilean Miners Rescued From The 'Deep Down Dark'

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 4:50 pm

Miner Claudio Yanez applauds as he is carried away on a stretcher after being rescued from the collapsed San Jose mine where he had been trapped with 32 other miners for over two months in 2010 near Copiapo, Chile.
Hugo Infante AP

The disaster began on a day shift around lunchtime at a mine in Chile's Atacama Desert: Miners working deep inside a mountain, excavating for copper, gold and other minerals, started feeling vibrations. Suddenly, there was a massive explosion and the passageways of the mine filled up with a gritty dust cloud.

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1:57pm

Wed October 15, 2014
Book Reviews

'The Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher' And Other Stories From Hilary Mantel

A new Hilary Mantel book is an Event with a "capital "E." Here's why: The first two best-selling novels in Mantel's planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, each won the Man Booker Prize — that's a first.

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11:41am

Wed October 8, 2014
Book Reviews

'Florence Gordon' Isn't Friend Material, But You'll Appreciate Her

Last year, the big debate in the world of books was over the question of whether or not a novel has to feature "likeable" main characters in order for readers to identify with them or make us want to stick with their stories. The debate had a sexist tinge to it: Female characters seemed especially burdened with the need to be pleasing.

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4:10pm

Tue September 23, 2014
Book Reviews

After WWI, A Mother And Daughter Must Take In 'Paying Guests'

Sarah Waters' new novel, The Paying Guests, is a knockout, which isn't a word any of her characters would use.

The book opens in 1922: The Edwardian Age, with its high collars and long skirts, is dead; the Jazz Age is waiting to be born — at least, that's the case in the suburban backwater of London where Waters' main character, a 26-year-old spinster named Frances Wray, lives with her mother.

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2:57pm

Thu September 11, 2014
Book Reviews

Futuristic 'Bone Clocks' Encompasses A Strange, Rich World Of Soul-Stealers

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 2:56 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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2:27pm

Wed September 3, 2014
Book Reviews

'10:04': A Strange, Spectacular Novel Connecting Several Plotlines

I admired Ben Lerner's last novel a lot; in fact, I ended my review of Leaving the Atocha Station by saying that "reading it was unlike any other novel-reading experience I've had for a long time." I could say the very same thing about Lerner's brilliant new novel, 10:04, which leads me to wonder: Just how many singular reading experiences can one novelist serve up? And if every one of Lerner's novels is singular, doesn't that make them, in a way, repetitive?

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2:01pm

Thu August 21, 2014
Book Reviews

Nostalgic For Noir? Feiffer's 'Kill My Mother' Is A Toxic Treat

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 7:56 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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3:26pm

Tue August 12, 2014
Book Reviews

In A Funny New Novel, A Weary Professor Writes To 'Dear Committee Members'

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 3:58 pm

Marek Uliasz iStockphoto.com

For all you teachers out there contemplating the August calendar with dismay, watching, powerless, as the days of summer vacation dwindle down to a precious few, I have some consolation to offer: a hilarious academic novel that'll send you laughing (albeit ruefully) back into the trenches of the classroom.

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2:02pm

Tue July 29, 2014
Book Reviews

'Ride Around Shining' Reimagines Gatsby's Nouveau-Riche Excess

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 3:54 pm

Most sports novels are about the aspiration to excel physically: to run faster, stretch out one's arms farther. The really cool thing about Ride Around Shining, a debut novel by Chris Leslie-Hynan, is that it doesn't stick to that familiar rule book. Even though it's set in the world of pro basketball, our narrator here is not the guy who aspires to be a great player; rather, he's the guy who aspires to be a great suck-up to the great player.

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2:27pm

Thu July 24, 2014
Book Reviews

'Panic In A Suitcase' Puts A Fresh Spin On A Coming-To-America Story

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 10:17 am

There's a wonderful 1982 memoir called An Orphan in History by the late Village Voice writer Paul Cowan. It's about Cowan's search for his European Jewish roots, and in it he says something about the sacrifices of older generations of immigrants that's always stayed with me. Cowan says: "Millions of immigrant families . . . left the economically and culturally confining Old World towns where they were raised, and paid for the freedom and prosperity this country offered with their pasts."

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3:34pm

Mon July 14, 2014
Book Reviews

'Mockingbird Next Door': A Genteel Peek Into Harper Lee's Quiet Life

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 9:53 pm

It's probably the most oft-cited literary fantasy of all time: I'm talking about that passage in Catcher in the Rye where Holden Caulfield says: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though."

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3:02pm

Thu July 10, 2014
Books

10 Years Later, Mystery Heroine 'Maisie Dobbs' Gains New Life

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 5:02 pm

If you asked mystery fans to name the most important novel of the past decade, most would say The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — and they'd be right. In fact, Stieg Larsson's complete Millennium series, flanked by hordes of Nordic noirs by the likes of Henning Mankell, Camilla Lackberg and Jo Nesbo, have overrun the ranks of hard-boiled detective fiction, imbuing it with their distinctive strain of brittle dialogue and chill fatalism.

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2:49pm

Wed July 2, 2014
Book Reviews

'Friendship': A Startlingly Nice Novel By A Tough-Girl Blogger

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Our book critic, Maureen Corrigan, has a review of the new novel "Friendship" by Emily Gould who made her name in the blogosphere. A recent profile in the New York Times Sunday style section described Gould as a forerunner to Lena Dunham and other confessional female bloggers, writers and filmmakers or whom over-sharing has become an art form.

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2:09pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Book Reviews

'Most Dangerous Book': A Rich Treasury Charting James Joyce's 'Ulysses'

There are many heroes in the tale of how James Joyce's masterpiece, Ulysses, which was banned for over 10 years throughout the English-speaking world, finally won its long battle to be legally published, sold and read. Kevin Birmingham tells that extraordinary story in his new book about Ulysses, called The Most Dangerous Book.

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3:31pm

Tue June 10, 2014
Book Reviews

'Rise And Fall' Carries On Vagabond Adventure Tale Tradition

guldfisken via Flickr

Any novel that opens on a young American woman running a bookshop in a small town nestled in the Welsh countryside promises a glimpse into a life lived far from the madding crowd. That's the quaint plotline Tom Rachman's new novel tells uninterruptedly for the length of one brief chapter. Thereafter, Rachman returns only occasionally to the World's End bookshop and its shelves sporting idiosyncratic labels like: Artists Who Were Unpleasant to Their Spouses; History, the Dull Bits; and Books You Pretend to Have Read but Haven't.

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3:54pm

Thu May 22, 2014
Book Reviews

A Second Posthumous Collection From Rock Critic Ellen Willis

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Ellen Willis was the first rock critic for The New Yorker is. She was also a radical feminist writer and activist. Her work appeared in the Village Voice, where she was a columnist, as well as in Rolling Stone and The Nation.

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4:10pm

Wed May 21, 2014
Book Reviews

'Chameleon' Has Cabaret, Spies And A Plot Fit For Lifetime

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 4:20 pm

German troops march towards Paris' Arc de Triomphe in 1943.
Keystone Getty Images

Even the most restrained plot summary of Francine Prose's latest novel sounds like a teaser for a late night Lifetime TV movie. Here goes: In the Paris of the late 1920s, a butch lesbian race car driver named Lou Villars has her license revoked by the French government for daring to dress as a man in public. Lou goes on to become a performer in a risque review at the Chameleon Club, a smoky nightclub where threadbare artists and thrill-seeking aristocrats mingle in the half-light.

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1:43pm

Mon May 5, 2014
Book Reviews

In 'Hotel Florida,' Three Couples Chronicle The Spanish Civil War

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 3:40 pm

Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, at the Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho.
AP

There's something romantic about biographer Amanda Vaill's device of making the Hotel Florida in Madrid the hub of her new book about the Spanish Civil War, called Hotel Florida; but, then again, there's always been something romantic about the Spanish Civil War itself. For the Spanish loyalists — who were supported by Russia and Mexico as well as the International Brigades of civilians from Europe and the Americas — the Spanish Civil War was a gallant stand against fascism.

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4:34pm

Thu April 17, 2014
Book Reviews

'Bintel Brief' And 'Hellfighters': American Stories, Powerfully Illustrated

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 4:57 pm

A Bintel Brief and The Harlem Hellfighters are two New York Stories. That's why I'm combining them in this review; not because — as some purists still think — they're lesser works of literature because they're graphic novels. If Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Bayeux Tapestry, and Art Spiegelman's 1991 classic, Maus, haven't yet convinced the high-art holdouts of the value of stories told in visual sequence, nothing I say now about these two books is likely to.

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2:08pm

Tue April 1, 2014
Book Reviews

This Tightly Choreographed Tale Of Ambition And Ballet Will 'Astonish'

iStockphoto

The title of Maggie Shipstead's second novel is: Astonish Me. She did just that --astonish me -- with her debut novel of 2012, called Seating Arrangements. After reading that novel, I likened the then 20-something-year-old Shipstead to "Edith Wharton with a millennial generation edge." The comparison remains sound.

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2:05pm

Tue March 25, 2014
Book Reviews

'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction Of Life In Lagos

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 3:07 pm

Derrick Ceyrac AFP/Getty Images

Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first. Teju Cole's Every Day Is For The Thief is not much of a novel. Forget plot or character development: This is a piece of writing that's all about setting. If you take what Cole is offering here and value it on its own terms, you'll probably appreciate the curious magic at work in this slim not-quite-a-novel. In chapters that stand as separate, short vignettes, Every Day Is For The Thief describes a young New York doctor's visit back to his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria.

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1:45pm

Tue March 18, 2014
Book Reviews

What U.S. Learned From 'Heathen School' Wasn't Part Of The Lesson Plan

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 9:51 am

Picture this. You're a young girl, living in a remote town in Connecticut in 1825. You've taken refuge in a neighbor's house and, as night falls, you peek out a window to see your friends and family members assembling outdoors around two crude paintings: One is of a young white woman (you); the other painting is of a man, a Native American.

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3:12pm

Wed March 5, 2014
Book Reviews

'Schmuck' Revisits The Golden Age Of Radio, And A Bygone Manhattan

RTimages iStockphoto

Beginning in 1952, and running through 1968, there was a legendary radio show called Klavan And Finch that was on WNEW in New York City. It was a four-hour live program featuring music and antic conversation between handsome, straight man Dee Finch and his live-wire counterpart, Gene Klavan.

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1:50pm

Wed February 26, 2014
Book Reviews

These Stories Consider Solitude, With Echoes Of Emily Dickinson

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 2:20 pm

Courtesy of Knopf

Lorrie Moore isn't quite a household name. This was news to me, because I thought that, given that she's the kind of writer who's published in The New Yorker and profiled in The New York Times, most culture vultures would know who she is. But, over the past couple of weeks when I mentioned her new book, Bark, in conversations, both in the halls of academe and over meals with friends, I mostly got blank stares. (One smarty confused her with that other great literary "Lorrie" — the late Laurie Colwin — whose short stories and novels are also essential reading.)

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11:03am

Mon February 17, 2014
Book Reviews

Don't Know What To Do With Your Life? Neither Did Thoreau

Originally published on Mon February 17, 2014 2:59 pm

The works of Henry David Thoreau have influenced generations of readers, but Thoreau himself wasn't always celebrated. His schoolmates and neighbors found him standoffish and regarded his fascination with plants and Indian relics as downright odd.
AP

Every year, students come into my office and say, "I don't know what I want to do with my life." Of course, plenty of people in the world don't have the luxury of such cluelessness, but my students don't look like they're enjoying their privilege; they look scared and depressed, as though they've already failed some big test of character. They might find some comfort in Michael Sims' new biography of the young Henry David Thoreau called, simply, The Adventures of Henry Thoreau.

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1:31pm

Wed February 5, 2014
Book Reviews

Triumph Of The Bookworms: Two Novels To Cure Your Winter Blues

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 5:19 pm

In the opening paragraph of Moby-Dick, Ishmael tells us he takes to sea whenever he feels the onset of "a damp, drizzly November in [his] soul." I know how he feels. Whenever the frigid funk of February settles in, I, too, yearn to get out of town. This year I have, thanks to two exquisite vehicles of escape fiction. Both Rachel Pastan's Alena and Katherine Pancol's The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles are smart entertainments perfect for curling up with on a winter's night.

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