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. Her book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures was published by Little, Brown in September 2014 (paperback forthcoming May 2015). Corrigan is represented by Trinity Ray at The Tuesday Lecture Agency: trinity@tuesdayagency.com

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
11:23 am
Mon July 6, 2015

Dead-Cinch Thrillers: 4 Books To Get Your Heart Pounding

Lydia Thompson NPR

Originally published on Mon July 6, 2015 12:54 pm

I've just spent much of the past two weeks on my couch, reading suspense fiction. The result of all that heavy lifting is this list of recommendations — four thrillers, very different in style and M.O., but all deadly accurate in their aim to entertain.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Book Reviews
12:46 pm
Wed June 24, 2015

'Patience And Fortitude' And The Fight To Save NYC's Storied Public Library

Cover detail of Scott Sherman's Patience and Fortitude.
Melville House Books

Originally published on Mon June 29, 2015 10:55 am

Since it opened in 1911, the building has become a New York City landmark, praised not only for its beauty but also for its functional brilliance. In the words of one contemporary architect, the main branch of The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street is "a perfect machine for reading." The grand Reading Room sits atop seven levels of iron and steel books stacks whose contents could, at one time, be delivered to anybody who requested a book within a matter of minutes via a small elevator. Those stacks also support the floor of the Reading Room above.

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Book Reviews
1:37 pm
Mon June 15, 2015

Morally Messy Stories, Exquisitely Told, In Mia Alvar's 'In The Country'

Lydia Thompson NPR

Originally published on Thu June 18, 2015 3:00 pm

The initial "selling point" of Mia Alvar's debut short story collection, In the Country, is its fresh subject matter: namely, Filipinos living under martial law in the 1970s in their own country and in exile, working as maids, engineers, teachers, health care workers and hired hands in the Middle East and the United States.

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Book Reviews
11:26 am
Mon June 8, 2015

Bombs Blast And Time Marches On In 'A God In Ruins'

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Books
11:16 am
Tue June 2, 2015

Four Books That Deliver Unexpected And Delightful Surprises This Summer

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Travel near and far, literary souvenirs and the cruise ship companionship of an animal are the subjects of the novels and works of nonfiction on Maureen Corrigan's list of early summer book recommendations.

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Book Reviews
11:55 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Misadventures And Absurdist Charm Take Root In 'George Orwell's House'

Emily Bogle NPR

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 9:31 am

In 1946, reeling from the death of his wife and seeking an escape from the demands of London literary life, Eric Blair, aka "George Orwell," moved to a cottage on the isle of Jura off the west coast of Scotland. What the place lacked in modern conveniences like electricity and running water, it perhaps made up for in misty views of the Atlantic and samplings of the local whiskey.

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Books
11:56 am
Fri May 8, 2015

Remembering Ruth Rendell, Master Of Smart And Socially Aware Suspense

Ruth Rendell wrote more than 60 books, some under the pseudonym Barbara Vine.
Max Nash AP

Originally published on Fri May 8, 2015 2:23 pm

When the news of Ruth Rendell's death broke last weekend, I searched for some of her novels on my mystery bookshelves. Rendell, 85, wrote more than 60 novels, so I should've been able to find a few, but no dice. I'm forever giving Rendell's novels away to people who need a good book.

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Book Reviews
11:20 am
Tue May 5, 2015

'One Of Us' Examines The Damaged Inner Terrain Of Norwegian Mass Shooter

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 6:08 am

Columbine; Port Arthur, Australia; The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin; Newtown — the list goes on and on. And, by now, the elements of this type of massacre have become ritualized: usually one, but sometimes more than one, deeply disaffected person, almost always male, who is heavily armed with guns and/or explosives, targets the innocent. In the aftermath, which sometimes includes a trial, the crucial question of "Why?" is never really answered. Instead, most of us are left to wonder how any human being, however twisted, could be capable of such horror.

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Book Reviews
1:25 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Revisiting A Suburbia-Gone-Sour In Ross Macdonald's Crime Fiction

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 2:54 pm

Ross Macdonald had a smart answer to the tedious question of why he devoted his considerable talents to writing "mere" detective stories: Macdonald said that the detective story was "a kind of welder's mask enabling writers to handle dangerously hot material." Like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (the great hard-boiled masters whom he revered), Macdonald set out to excavate the dark depths of American life, but to find his own "dangerously hot material" Macdonald descended into uncharted territory.

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Book Reviews
12:29 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

'The Children's Crusade': A Heavily Plotted Family Saga To Dive Into And Savor

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 3:13 pm

Ann Packer's new novel, The Children's Crusade, opens in California, on a scene that's so bedrock American, it's borderline corny.

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Book Reviews
1:38 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Open A Critic's 'Poetry Notebook' And Find The Works That Shaped Him

Clive James — an author, critic, broadcaster, poet, translator and memoirist — was diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago.
Courtesy of Liveright

Clive James' most anthologized poem is commonly known by its first two lines: "The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered/And I Am Pleased." Those lines tell the uninitiated almost all they need to know about the pleasures to be found in reading James: chief among them, his wit and his appreciation of the underlying absurdity of so much literary effort — including his own.

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Book Reviews
12:37 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Do You Believe In Ghosts? You Might After Reading This Book

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:13 pm

Who doesn't love a good ghost story? The unseen hand moving a cup or the shadow climbing a staircase promises an existence beyond our mundane realities. Hannah Nordhaus' new book, American Ghost, is an offbeat mishmosh of memoir, cultural history, genealogical detective story and paranormal investigation, but it opens in the classic manner of spooky tales — with a sighting.

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Book Reviews
1:39 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

How We Deal With Loss In Different Ways In Two Beautifully Written Memoirs

Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 5:16 pm

Loss is the rough tie that binds two memoirs that, otherwise, are as different as day and night. What Comes Next and How to Like It is a sequel of sorts to Abigail Thomas' best-selling 2006 memoir, A Three Dog Life, which chronicled the one-two punch death of her husband — by her account, a sweetheart of a guy who took their dog out for a walk one afternoon in New York and was hit by a car. He suffered brain injuries and lingered for five years. Even after that catastrophe, more losses now loom for Thomas.

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Book Reviews
12:09 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

In 'The Buried Giant,' Exhausted Medieval Travelers 'Can't Go On,' But So 'Go On'

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Book Reviews
12:19 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

'Welcome To Braggsville' Isn't Quite 'Invisible Man,' But It's Close

Emily Jan NPR

Here's only a partial list of great American writers whose names came to mind as I was reading T. Geronimo Johnson's new novel, Welcome to Braggsville: Tom Wolfe, Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, H.L. Mencken, Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer and Ralph Ellison, Ralph Ellison, Ralph Ellison. Johnson's timely novel is a tipsy social satire about race and the oh-so-fragile ties that bind disparate parts of this country into an imperfect and restless union.

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Book Reviews
1:09 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Victorian Romance Meets 'House Of Cards' In 'Mr. And Mrs. Disraeli'

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 3:11 pm

A climb "to the top of a greasy pole" are the immortal words coined by 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to describe his rise to political power. Disraeli was two-time prime minister under Queen Victoria, as well as a novelist and famous wit whose way with a catchy phrase was rivaled in the 19th century only by his younger admirer, Oscar Wilde. But when he entered politics in the 1830s, Disraeli was burdened by debt and, even more seriously, by his Jewish parentage.

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Book Reviews
12:45 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

Funny If It Weren't So True: A Farce About 'The Importance Of Beauty'

Amanda Filipacchi is also the author of the novels Nude Men, Vapor and Love Creeps.
Marion Ettlinger Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 2:54 pm

"Does this obituary make me look fat?"

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Book Reviews
12:21 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

In 'Outline,' A Series Of Conversations Are Autobiographies In Miniature

The narrator of Rachel Cusk's new novel Outline is a novelist and divorced mother of two who has agreed to teach a summer course in creative writing in Athens. The novel itself is composed of some 10 conversations that she has with, among others, her seatmate on the plane flying to Greece, her students in the writing class, dinner companions and fellow teachers.

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Book Reviews
11:17 am
Mon January 26, 2015

These 13 'Almost Famous Women' Stirred Up Trouble, Or Trouble Found Them

One of Megan Mayhew Bergman's short stories is based on the life of dancer and actress Butterfly McQueen.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 12:17 pm

Almost Famous Women is the kind of "high concept" short-story collection that invites skepticism. These stories are about 13 historical women whose names you mostly might sort-of recognize. Beryl Markham, Butterfly McQueen and Shirley Jackson are slam-dunks, but Romaine Brooks and Joe Carstairs are a bit blurrier. While the family names of Allegra Byron, Dolly Wilde and Norma Millay betray their relation to important figures, we don't know what they did. And who the heck was Hazel Eaton or Tiny Davis?

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Book Reviews
11:28 am
Wed December 31, 2014

In 'Death By Pastrami,' Charming Stories Of New York's Garment District

Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 12:58 pm

No, it's not a posthumously published mystery novel by the late, great composer and conductor. Rather, Death by Pastrami by Leonard S. Bernstein is a collection of short stories mostly about life in the garment district of New York City. This Leonard Bernstein knows whereof he writes: He owned and managed a garment factory; now, in his 80s, he's published his first work of fiction, making him a veritable Grandma Moses of the garment district.

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Book Reviews
1:00 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 11:12 am

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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Book Reviews
1:04 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 1:29 pm

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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Books
12:52 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

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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Book Reviews
12:06 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

You'll Want To Accept The Dinner Invitation To 'The Immortal Evening'

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

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our book critic, Maureen Corrigan, says a new book about an almost 200-year-old dinner party serves up plenty of food for thought. Here is her review.

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Book Reviews
1:41 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

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

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 9:41 am

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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Book Reviews
11:45 am
Tue September 23, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 2:10 pm

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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Book Reviews
12:57 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 12:56 pm

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

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Book Reviews
12:27 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

'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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Book Reviews
12:01 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 5:56 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Book Reviews
1:15 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

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

Marek Uliasz iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 1:58 pm

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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