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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12:16pm

Mon July 2, 2012
Book Reviews

'The Age Of Miracles' Considers Earth's Fragility

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 12:39 pm

iStock

The Age of Miracles is literary fiction, but it spins out the same kind of "what if?" disaster plot that distinguishes many a classic sci-fi movie. Too bad the title The Day the Earth Stood Still was already taken, because it really would have been the perfect title for Thompson's novel.

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12:41pm

Mon June 18, 2012
Book Reviews

'Beautiful Ruins,' Both Human And Architectural

In Jess Walter's new novel, Beautiful Ruins, there's a beaten-down character named Claire who works in Hollywood reading scripts for a living. Claire is inundated with reality TV show pitches, many of them featuring drunk models or drunk sex addicts — in short, scripts so offensive that, Claire thinks, to give them the green light for production would be akin to "singlehandedly hastening the apocalypse."

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12:14pm

Mon June 11, 2012
Book Reviews

Book Party For One: A Loner's Summer Survival Guide

Originally published on Wed June 20, 2012 4:48 pm

Harriet Russell

Summer is a season when people get hypersocial — with barbecues and neighborhood fairs, graduations and pool parties. In short, it's an especially trying time for those of us who'd rather stay indoors and read a book. My early summer reading list, therefore, takes the form of a loner's survival guide.

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11:36am

Wed June 6, 2012
Book Reviews

Brit Wit Meets Manor Mystery In 'Uninvited Guests'

Originally published on Fri June 8, 2012 11:08 am

A dark and stormy night; an isolated manor house; a knock at the door. These are the surefire elements that have kept Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap creaking continuously on the London stage ever since its premiere in 1952. And these are the very same elements that make Sadie Jones' new novel, The Uninvited Guests, such a delicious romp to read.

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12:02pm

Tue May 22, 2012
Book Reviews

'Right-Hand': A Lush Prequel To 'Mason's Retreat'

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 12:22 pm

Whenever I think about Christopher Tilghman's writing — and I have many times since his atmospheric novel, Mason's Retreat, came out more than 15 years ago — I think of critic John Leonard. John, among many other distinctions, was my predecessor as book critic for Fresh Air and, every once in a while before his death in 2008, we'd have occasion to talk or exchange e-mails about books. I remember John sending me a note in 1996, in which he mentioned Mason's Retreat and said of Tilghman, "He's the real deal."

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11:56am

Tue May 1, 2012
Book Reviews

'The Newlyweds': A Match Made Online

Originally published on Tue May 1, 2012 12:38 pm

Random House

There continues to be a lot of talk about gender bias in the book industry. The core argument goes that, while both male and female authors write novels about relationships and the domestic sphere, when a woman does so her books are relegated to "chic lit," and when a man (like Jonathan Franzen) does, he's lauded for serious literary achievement.

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10:44am

Thu April 26, 2012
Book Reviews

Lillian Hellman: A 'Difficult,' Vilified Woman

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 12:17 pm

"Difficult" is probably the most tactful word one could use in characterizing Lillian Hellman. If ever there were an author safer to meet through her art rather than in real life, she was the one. Born in New Orleans into a Jewish family, Hellman came of age in the Roaring '20s, liberated by flappers and Freud. Hellman drank like a fish, swore like a sailor and slept around like, well, like most of the men in her literary circle, chief among them Dashiell Hammett, with whom she had an open relationship spanning three decades. She was, recalled one observer, a "tough broad ...

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12:16pm

Wed April 11, 2012
Book Reviews

'Present': For Nadine Gordimer, Politics Hit Home

Nadine Gordimer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Photo courtesy of the author

Nadine Gordimer's trademark characters live for politics, the Struggle. You get the feeling they would be sick to their collective stomachs if they ever even tried to bite into a gourmet cupcake.

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10:50am

Wed March 14, 2012
Book Reviews

Two Books That Delight In New York City's Dirt

Originally published on Wed March 21, 2012 11:25 am

Timothy A. Clary AFP/Getty Images

Some years ago I was visiting Disneyland and had a culture-clash encounter there with my one of fellow Americans. I was standing with my daughter on the miles-long meandering line for "It's a Small World After All" and I fell into a conversation with another mom; when this woman found out I was a native New Yorker, she treated me to her verdict on the city: "It's so dirty there!"

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10:40am

Wed March 14, 2012
Book Reviews

'Coral Glynn': The Art Of Repression

Originally published on Wed March 14, 2012 12:03 pm

istockphoto.com

I was in my local independent bookstore last week, enjoying the endangered pleasure of wandering around and snuffling through interesting-looking books, when I overheard two women talking in front of the new releases section. "I need a new British novelist," one of them said. Ladies, I should have spoken up, but the moment passed and, besides, it was too awkward to explain that one of the best British novelists writing today was born in New Jersey.

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12:16pm

Mon February 27, 2012
Book Reviews

China On The Court: NBA Meets The 'Brave Dragons'

iStockPhoto.com

"Linsanity" is the magical byword of this basketball season. As anyone who is even semi-conscious knows, Jeremy Lin, the NBA's first Taiwanese-American player by way of Harvard, was passed over for college athletic scholarships and ignored in NBA drafts. Then, he landed with the New York Knicks and has since proved to everybody that athletic prejudice against Asians is Lincredibly stupid. Except, as journalist Jim Yardley points out in his new book on basketball fever in China, Chinese players and coaches happen to endorse that prejudice.

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11:01am

Wed February 15, 2012
Book Reviews

More Than Melancholy: 'In-Flight' Stories Soar

Random House

The Brits: You've got to hand it to them. The Empire may be long gone, but they still reign supreme when it comes to effortlessly exuding mordant wit. For anyone who savors the acerbic literary likes of Evelyn Waugh or the Amises, father and son, Helen Simpson is just the ticket.

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10:48am

Mon January 30, 2012
Book Reviews

'An Available Man': Love After Loss

cover detail

In my family, we referred to them as "the brisket brigade" — those single ladies of a certain age who began bombarding my brother-in-law with casseroles and commiseration soon after my sister-in-law died. It's a cruel fact of life that nobody plies widows with months of home-cooked meals and baked goods; as Jonathan Swift might have modestly proposed, widows might as well eat each other — there's a surplus supply of them, anyway. But, a new widower gets the Crock-Pots and the romantic fantasies all fired up.

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11:39am

Wed January 11, 2012
Book Reviews

'Hope': A Comic Novel About the Holocaust?

Originally published on Thu January 12, 2012 12:54 pm

frequent contributor to This American Life." href="/post/hope-comic-novel-about-holocaust" class="noexit lightbox">
Shalom Auslander is also the author of the short story collection Beware of God and a memoir, Foreskin's Lament. He is a frequent contributor to This American Life.
Franco Vogt Courtesy Riverhead Books

Years ago, when my daughter was a toddler, my husband and I were friendly with another couple who had a child the same age. The friendship came to an end when the wife of the couple let slip that her husband had dressed their daughter as JonBenet Ramsey for Halloween. "He has an offbeat sense of humor," the wife explained to me. That's one way to look at it. Or else, as I thought, maybe hubby's "humor" wasn't funny at all — just perversely detached from the horrific death of an actual 6-year-old.

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11:59am

Tue January 3, 2012
Book Reviews

'Diaries' Reveals New York Through The Ages

New York Diaries captures impressions of the city from Henry Hudson to the bloggers watching the events of Sept. 11.
istockphoto.com

Most everyone's spirits are a bit deflated after the holidays. So, as a literary antidote, I recommend a just-published anthology called New York Diaries: 1609 – 2009. Editor Teresa Carpenter has collected four centuries worth of diary excerpts written by people, great and small, who've lived in or just passed through one of the greatest cities in the world.

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8:24am

Wed December 14, 2011
Best Books Of 2011

Year-End Wrap-Up: The 10 Best Novels Of 2011

Priscilla Nielsen for NPR

This was a terrific year for fiction and a particularly strong year for first-time novelists. Some of the literary debutantes who glide through this "10 best" list are so young, their wisdom teeth probably haven't had time to become impacted yet. Majestically bringing up the rear of the procession are some much-decorated veterans whose sustained achievements in fiction should ensure that the young 'uns don't rest too comfortably on their laurels.

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12:49pm

Wed November 16, 2011
Book Reviews

A Quaint, Compelling 'Pilgrim' Tale In The New World

I'll admit, it's kind of hokey to be talking about a novel called The Pilgrim right before Thanksgiving. What's even more quaint is the fact that The Pilgrim is one of those straightforward works of historical fiction the likes of which we don't see so much anymore.

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3:52pm

Mon November 7, 2011
Book Reviews

Life Without Plot In 'Leaving The Atocha Station'

Ben Lerner's debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station is one of the most compelling books about nothing I've ever read.

Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of this kind of spinning-one's-wheels-in-the-sand fiction. Austen and Dickens and Hammett got to me early and spoiled me: I like plot. But Lerner's offbeat little novel manages to convey what everyday life feels like before we impose the structure of plot on our experience.

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9:57am

Thu November 3, 2011
Book Reviews

A Critic To Remember: Pauline Kael At The 'Movies'

Originally published on Thu November 3, 2011 12:16 pm

Pauline Kael was a film critic for The New Yorker from 1967 to 1991, as well as the author of several books, including I Lost It at the Movies and For Keeps: 30 Years at the Movies.

AP

To quote the immortal title of her 1965 collection of movie reviews, Pauline Kael may have "lost it at the movies," but she infinitely renewed her wide-eyed wonder as a moviegoer in her essays for The New Yorker magazine. Kael was no virgin as a critic when she started writing for The New Yorker in 1967 — but when she loved a movie, she always wrote like she was being touched for the very first time.

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11:50am

Mon October 17, 2011
Book Reviews

The Sad Lesson Of 'Body Snatchers': People Change

Sometimes the stories that stay with us aren't the classics or even all that polished. They're what some critics call "good-bad" stories: the writing may be workmanlike and the characters barely developed, but something about them is so potent that they're unforgettable, so unforgettable they can attain the status of myth.

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12:01pm

Wed October 12, 2011
Book Reviews

'Lost Memory Of Skin' Goes Where Most Fiction Won't

You've got to hand it to Russell Banks: He's certainly not writing with an eye to please readers or to be taken up by book clubs across the land. Lost Memory of Skin is not aiming to be a "crossover" literary stealth hit. If you're going to read it, you're the one who will have to "cross over" to Banks' world, and it ain't very pretty on his side of the social divide.

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10:01am

Tue June 14, 2011
Books We Like

'State Of Wonder' Deftly Twists, Turns Off The Map

It's not often that a novel leaves me (temporarily) speechless. But Ann Patchett's new novel isn't called State of Wonder for nothing, because that's exactly the state I've been in ever since I first opened it. The numbness has worn off by now, but for days, all I could say to friends who asked me about it was the one-word review: "Wow."

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10:07am

Mon June 13, 2011
Books We Like

'Guilty Passion' Leads A Housewife To Homicide

Lust makes people do crazy things — as demonstrated by the almost weekly addition of yet another politician to our national walk of shame. But, bad as the marital infidelities and lewd twitterings of our elected officials may be, there's cold comfort to be found in the fact that none of them have gone completely over the edge.

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12:00pm

Thu June 2, 2011
Book Reviews

Summer Reads To Transport You Back In Time

Summer, when I was a kid, meant weekend road-trips in our family Rambler to sites of historical interest. We'd pack up deviled-ham sandwiches and Cokes and make pilgrimages from our apartment in Queens to Teddy Roosevelt's house on Long Island or Washington Irving's house in Westchester. Sometimes there were longer expeditions to Valley Forge and, once, Williamsburg. I'm not sure how much history I absorbed; I mostly remember a lot of candle-making demonstrations.

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10:01am

Wed June 1, 2011
Books

Crime Fiction Picks Serve Up Summertime Suspense

Chris Silas Neal

Pining for another suspenseful summer in Scandinavia?

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11:00am

Thu May 26, 2011
Book Reviews

'The Sentimentalists': Submerged Emotions Surface

This is the kind of novel that the traditional publishing industry isn't supposed to have room for any longer: a slim debut novel graced by inventive language and a haunting atmosphere. In other words, a novel that, if it's lucky, can be estimated to attract maybe 15 readers outside of the author's family. But Johanna Skibsrud's novel, The Sentimentalists, has already had more than its share of first-time work of fiction luck.

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11:23am

Wed May 11, 2011
Book Reviews

'Big Girl Small': Humiliation, High School Style

 

Don't read this novel if you have teenagers. Or ever were a teenager — especially a teenage girl. It will bring back high school in raw, oozing detail, like a psychic skinned knee. The cliques, the whispers, the glossy girls, the frantic parties, the stupid drinking, the disconnected sexual encounters and, perhaps worst of all, the carnival of lost souls that is the lunchtime cafeteria. High school: a world so hostile to the outsider that even a Navy Seal might hesitate at the threshold.

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11:05am

Wed May 4, 2011
Book Reviews

WWI: A Moral Contest Between Pacifists And Soldiers

Adam Hochschild frames his pensive narrative history about the first World War with accounts of his own walks through what once was the Western Front. He describes it as "a thin band of territory, stretching through northern France and [a] corner of Belgium [that] has the greatest concentration of young men's graves in the world."

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11:15am

Tue April 19, 2011
Books We Like

An Old Romance Blooms Anew In 'Love Of My Youth'

To fully give yourself over to Mary Gordon's luscious, wistful new novel, you first have to make yourself forget that the Internet exists.

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10:27am

Tue March 22, 2011
Books We Like

The Joy Of The Mundane In 'Emily, Alone'

It takes a deft hand to do justice to the ordinary. Most novelists don't even bother to try, which is why most novels are about a rip in the fabric of the routine. It's tough to find fiction ambitious enough to tackle the story of a run-of-the-mill job, a hum-drum family; but, if the mundane matters to you, then Stewart O'Nan is your man.

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