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 served as a juror for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. So We Read On, her forthcoming book on the extraordinary "second act" of The Great Gatsby, will be published by Little, Brown in September 2014.

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 TimesBook Prize.

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Book Reviews
4:08 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Midwestern Memoir Tracks 'Flyover Lives' Of Author's Forebears

The second best quality Diane Johnson has as a writer is that she's so smart. Her first best quality — and one that's far more rare — is that she credits her audience with being smart, too. Whether she's writing fiction, biography or essays, Johnson lets scenes and conversations speak for themselves, accruing power as they lodge in readers' minds.

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Book Reviews
12:48 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

On This Spanish Slave Ship, Nothing Was As It Seemed

Detail from the cover of The Empire of Necessity.
Courtesy of Metropolitan Books

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 5:14 pm

Shortly after sunrise, on the morning of Feb. 20, 1805, sailors on an American ship called the Perseverance, anchored near an uninhabited island off the coast of Chile, spied a weird vessel drifting into view. It flew no flag and its threadbare sails were slack. The captain of the Perseverance, a man named Amasa Delano, decided to come to the aid of the ship, whose name, painted in faded white letters along its bow, was the Tryal.

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Book Reviews
1:44 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Chang-rae Lee Stretches For Dystopic Drama, But Doesn't Quite Reach

ilbusca iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 2:04 pm

Dystopia is all the rage these days, especially in young adult fiction: There's the "Hunger Games" trilogy of course; Veronica Roth's "Divergent" series, in which Chicago has gone to the dogs; Cassandra Clare's "Mortal Instruments" series, inspired by a nightmare vision of Manhattan; and Stephanie Meyer's non-Twilight novel, The Host, where Earth has been colonized by alien parasites.

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Book Reviews
2:00 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Empty Nester In 'The Woods': A Modern Dantean Journey

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Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 2:27 pm

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Allowing for translation, those are the immortal opening lines of Dante's Divine Comedy. Here, some seven centuries later, are some of Lynn Darling's opening lines from her new memoir, Out of the Woods: "The summer my only child left home for college, I moved from an apartment in New York City, to live alone in a small house at the end of a dirt road in the woods of central Vermont."

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Book Reviews
2:40 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

A Critic Tours 'Echo Spring,' Home Of Beloved Boozy Writers

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Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 4:19 pm

It's the quintessential "dog bites man" story. I'm talking about a new book I just read about a group of famous writers who — get this -- drank too much! I know, right? That's pretty much the equivalent of saying I just read a book about a group of famous writers who used commas in their sentences.

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Books
1:19 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Need A Read? Here Are Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2013

Illustration of woman and books.
Nishant Choksi

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 4:10 pm

First, a word about this list: It's honestly just a fluke that my best books rundown for 2013 is so gender-biased. I didn't deliberately set out this year to read so many terrific books by women.

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What to Read
5:35 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Thanksgivukkah Stress Getting You Down? Here's A Literary Escape Plan

Iryna Denysova iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 7:13 pm

Mark your calendars: According to some scholars, the next time it might happen is the year 79,811. I'm talking, of course, about the hybrid holiday of Thanksgivukkah, a melding of Thanksgiving and the Jewish Festival of Lights. The Borsch Belt-style Pilgrim jokes and mishmash recipes (turkey brined in Manischewitz, anyone?) are flying around the Internet; but since Jews are frequently referred to as "the People of the Book" and Pilgrims pretty much lived by the Book, Thanksgivukkah seems to me like the quintessential (stressful) family holiday to celebrate by escaping into a book.

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Book Reviews
2:44 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

A 'Marriage', A Divorce, A Dying Dog And Essays Done Right

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Pity the poor essay collection. Unlike its close, more creative neighbor — the short story collection — or its snooty relation, The Novel, the humble essay collection is the wallflower of the literary world. And, when an essay collection is composed — as Ann Patchett's new volume partly is — of pieces previously printed in fashion and pet lovers' magazines, it really might seem like a grab bag of minor material — as, admittedly, a few of the pieces here are.

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Book Reviews
3:04 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

'Self-Help Messiah' Dale Carnegie Gets A Second Life In Print

Courtesy of Other Press

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 3:50 pm

"Make the other person feel important." "Let the other fellow feel that the idea is his." "Make people like you." Those are some of the peppy commands that have sent generations of Americans out into the world, determined to win friends and influence people — oh, and make big bucks.

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Book Reviews
2:53 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

Dickensian Ambition And Emotion Make 'Goldfinch' Worth The Wait

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 3:39 pm

"Dickensian" is one of those literary modifiers that's overused. But before I officially retire this ruined adjective (or exile it to Australia, as Dickens himself would have done), I want to give it one final outing, because no other word will do. Here goes: Donna Tartt's grand new novel, The Goldfinch, is Dickensian both in the ambition of its jumbo, coincidence-laced plot, as well as in its symphonic range of emotions.

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Book Reviews
1:22 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

If You're Looking To Read 'Lady Things,' Choose Jezebel Over Jones

Originally published on Mon October 21, 2013 5:19 pm

Dizzy dames don't age well. An attractive young thing doing prat falls is disarming; an older woman stumbling around for laughs spells hip replacement. Sad to say, Bridget Jones has hung on to her once-endearing daffiness, self-deprecation, and wine dependency far past their collective expiration date. That's one of the big reasons why her latest outing, called Mad About the Boy, is painful to read.

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Book Reviews
1:13 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Meet Ben's Sister Jane, History's Forgotten Franklin

Quill pen and ink
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Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 2:32 pm

"Her days were days of flesh." That's just one of a multitude of striking observations that Jill Lepore makes about Jane Franklin, the baby sister of Ben. What Lepore means by that line of near-poetry is that Jane Franklin's life, beginning at age 17 when she gave birth to the first of her 12 children, was one of nursing, lugging pails of night soil, butchering chickens, cooking and scrubbing.

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Book Reviews
1:53 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Out Of Lahiri's Muddy 'Lowland,' An Ambitious Story Soars

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Originally published on Mon October 7, 2013 3:53 pm

Geography is destiny in Jhumpa Lahiri's new novel, The Lowland. Her title refers to a marshy stretch of land between two ponds in a Calcutta neighborhood where two very close brothers grow up. In monsoon season, the marsh floods and the ponds combine; in summer, the floodwater evaporates. You don't need your decoder ring to figure out that the two ponds symbolize the two brothers — at times separate; at other times inseparable. But there's still more meaning lurking in this rich landscape.

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Book Reviews
1:16 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Introducing 'Miss Anne,' The White Women Of A Black Renaissance

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 12:16 pm

Ten years ago, literary scholar Carla Kaplan released an acclaimed edition of the letters of Zora Neale Hurston. In the course of researching Hurston's life, Kaplan became curious about the white women who were in Harlem in the same period as Hurston, women who risked family exile and social ostracism to be part of the artistic and political movements of the Harlem Renaissance. Now, Kaplan has published a cultural history of those women called Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance.

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Book Reviews
1:30 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

From McDermott, An Extraordinary Story Of An Ordinary 'Someone'

The main character of Alice McDermott's Someone grew up in 1920s and '30s New York.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 3:27 pm

Endurance, going the distance, sucking up the solitude and the brine: I'm not talking about the glorious Diana Nyad and her instantly historic swim from Cuba to Key West, but of the ordinary heroine whose life is the subject of Alice McDermott's latest novel, Someone. "Ordinary" is a word that's used a lot to describe McDermott's characters, mostly Irish and working class, mostly un-heroic in any splashy way.

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Book Reviews
1:41 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

A Gossipy, Nostalgic History Of A Publishing 'Hothouse'

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Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 3:28 pm

In the world of book publishing, ravaged though it may be, the name Farrar, Straus & Giroux still bespeaks literary quality. It's a publishing house that boasts a roll call of 25 Nobel Prize winners and heavyweights like Susan Sontag, Carlos Fuentes, Joan Didion, Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen. A lot of writers, past and present, have turned down higher advances for their books from other publishing houses for the honor of being an FSG author.

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Book Reviews
11:30 am
Tue August 6, 2013

'Love Affairs' Of A Hip, Young Literary Hound Dog

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Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 12:18 pm

Before I read Adelle Waldman's brilliant debut novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., I had about as much interest in reading about the hip, young literary types who've colonized Brooklyn as I do in watching Duck Dynasty, that reality show about a family of bearded Luddites who live in the Louisiana swamps. Both clans are ingrown and smug, each, in their own way, disdainful of the American mainstream.

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Book Reviews
1:06 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

With 'Arrangements' And 'The Rest,' Two Debut Novelists Arrive

Originally published on Tue July 30, 2013 3:41 pm

The novel I've been recommending this summer to anyone, female or male, who's looking for the trifecta — a good story that's beautifully written and both hilarious and humane — is Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead's debut novel from last summer. I was about to go all old-school and excitedly add that Seating Arrangements is now out in paperback, except since more and more readers are instantly downloading new books at a discount, paperbacks are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

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