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.

Pages

Commentary
11:18 am
Mon May 27, 2013

After WWII, A Letter Of Appreciation That Still Rings True

U.S. Navy sailors form a ceremonial guard at a wreath-laying ceremony to memorialize the victims of the attack on Pearl Harbor and pay tribute to the veterans of World War II in front of the Lone Sailor statue at the Naval Memorial in Washington, D.C., in December 2003.
Brendan Smialowski Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 9:43 am

In the fall of 1945, my father was honorably discharged from the Navy. He was one of the lucky ones. He'd served on a destroyer escort during the war, first in convoys dodging U-boats in the Atlantic and then in the Pacific where his ship, the USS Schmitt, shot down two kamikaze planes. My dad always kept a framed picture of the Schmitt above his dresser, but, like most men of his generation, he didn't talk a lot about his war years.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:08 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Coming To 'Americanah': Two Tales Of Immigrant Experience

JOZZ iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 2:34 pm

First things first: Can we talk about hair? Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a big knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color; but, as Adichie has said in interviews, she also knows that black women's hair can speak volumes about racial politics.

Read more
Book Reviews
7:03 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Postgraduate Post-Mortem In A Smart, Literary Mystery

There are many things to savor about Elanor Dymott's debut suspense novel, Every Contact Leaves a Trace -- among them, its baroque narrative structure and its clever manipulation of the stock, husband-who-hasn't-got-a-clue character. But Dymott really won me over when she pulled Robert Browning out of her crime kit. Nobody reads Robert Browning anymore, do they? As far as I can tell, high schools have thrown in the towel when it comes to teaching Victorian poetry; dissertations on Browning's dramatic monologues have all but dried up.

Read more
Book Reviews
12:56 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Godwin's 'Flora': A Tale Of Remorse That Creeps Under Your Skin

Gail Godwin, whose latest novel is Flora, has been a finalist for the National Book Award and a Guggenheim fellow.
David Hermon Bloomsbury Press

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 3:20 pm

Gail Godwin says one of the inspirations for her new novel, called Flora, is Henry James' ghost story The Turn of the Screw. Both stories take place in isolated old houses, and both revolve around mental contests between a governess character and her young charge. There are ghosts in Flora, too: specters that arise out of what our narrator calls her "remorse." Godwin had me at that word, "remorse": It's such a great, old-fashioned word, and it suggests that there'll be a lot of awful things going on in this novel that will need to be atoned for.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:14 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

'Equilaterial': Martians, Oil And A Hole In The Desert

Johan Swanepoel iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 10:08 am

Equilateral is a weird little novel, but any reader familiar with Ken Kalfus expects his writing to go off-road. Kalfus wrote one of the best and certainly the least sentimental novels about New York City post-9/11. I loved A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, but I stopped assigning it to students in my New York lit class because they were usually turned off by its black humor and lack of uplift. Equilateral doesn't run that same risk of being in bad taste as social commentary because, at first, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with current events.

Read more
Book Reviews
2:52 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

Beauty Marks: Patricia Volk's Lessons In Womanhood

Patricia Volk is an essayist, novelist and memoirist. She grew up in a restaurant-owning family in New York City.
Random House

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 12:12 pm

I've loved Patricia Volk's writing ever since I read her evocative 2002 memoir, Stuffed, which told the story of her grandfather — who introduced pastrami to America — as well as the rest of her family, who fed New Yorkers for more than 100 years in their various restaurants. Stuffed, like the best food memoirs, served up so much more on its plate than just a bagel and a schmear. So when I picked up Volk's new memoir, Shocked, my appetite was already whetted for the humor of her writing, its emotional complexity and smarts.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:16 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

'Burgess Boys' Family Saga Explores The Authenticity Of Imperfection

iStockphoto.com

In 1846, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a famous essay called "The Philosophy of Composition," in which he sounds like an interior decorator. I say that because in the essay, Poe insists that all good writing must strive for what he calls "unity of effect." For Poe, it was important that everything in his short stories — characters, setting, narration — add up to one big "color-me-terrified" impact.

Read more
Book Reviews
2:09 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

The Apathy In 'A Thousand Pardons' Is Hard To Forgive

iStockPhoto

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 4:32 pm

Jonathan Dee likes to write about rich, good-looking people falling apart — and who among the 99 percent of us can't enjoy that plot? In The Privileges, the dad of the family was a Wall Street trader, tempted by existential boredom into larceny; in A Thousand Pardons, the dad of the family is a partner in a New York law firm, tempted by existential boredom into a disastrous workplace affair.

Read more
Book Reviews
2:01 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

'Lean In': Not Much Of A Manifesto, But Still A Win For Women

AP

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 2:19 pm

Sheryl Sandberg tells an anecdote in her new book, Lean In, about sitting down with her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, for her first performance review as chief operating officer at Facebook. Zuckerberg told her that her "desire to be liked by everybody would hold [her] back." I hope she's worked on that problem because over the past few weeks, there sure have been a lot of people hating on Sheryl Sandberg.

Read more
Books
2:30 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

A Fiendish Fly Recalls Kafka In 'Jacob's Folly'

iStockphoto.com

Man awakens to find out he has turned into an insect. And the Double Jeopardy question is, "What is Kafka's The Metamorphosis?" Well, what other response could there possibly be? Kafka all but cornered the market on that verminous plot in 1915; although, after nearly 100 years, the exclusivity clause may be about to expire. It takes a gutsy writer to pad in Gregor Samsa's sticky steps, but, by now, Rebecca Miller is clearly used to coping with the anxiety of influence and staying true to her own vision.

Read more
Book Reviews
11:52 am
Thu February 28, 2013

Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother' Inspires The Story Of 'Mary Coin'

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 1:00 pm

I shied away from Marisa Silver's new novel because of its book jacket: a reproduction of Dorothea Lange's iconic Depression-era photograph called "Migrant Mother." You know it: the woman's strong face is worn and worried; her children lean protectively into her. Lange took the photo at a pea-pickers' camp in California in 1936; the name of the destitute mother of seven, who wasn't identified till the 1970s, is Florence Owens Thompson. The photo on Silver's book jacket is colorized.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:13 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Karen Russell's 'Vampires' Deserve The Raves

Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 2:39 pm

I don't have a good track record when it comes to raving about Karen Russell. Last year, along with my two fellow judges, I nominated Russell's novel, Swamplandia!, as well as two other finalists, for the Pulitzer Prize. Result? The Pulitzer Board made headlines by deciding not to give out the award in Fiction. Nevertheless, I rave on: this time about Russell's new short story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

Read more
Book Reviews
7:03 am
Thu February 21, 2013

The Satisfactions Of Simplicity In 'Jackal's Share'

iStockphoto.com

Chris Morgan Jones' latest espionage novel, The Jackal's Share, makes a reader appreciate the attractions of simplicity. There aren't any glitzy tricks here: no over-the-top villains or weapons arsenals; no le Carre-like meditations on the existential identity of the spy.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:38 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

A Soured Student-Teacher Friendship Threatens 'Everything'

Matjaz Boncina iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 2:55 pm

Over the past week or so, I've mentioned James Lasdun's new book, Give Me Everything You Have to a bunch of colleagues; they've all heard about it already and they're all dying to read it. What Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was to parenting a couple of years ago, Lasdun's Give Me Everything You Have may well be to teaching: a controversial personal reflection on the professor-student relationship — except Lasdun, unlike Chua, really has no advice to offer; no certitude, nor help for pain.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:54 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Jane Austen's 'Pride And Prejudice' At 200

Harper Collins

Originally published on Mon January 28, 2013 6:38 pm

My favorite item from the growing mountain of Pride and Prejudice bicentennial trivia comes courtesy of an article in something called Regency World Magazine, which is going gaga over the anniversary. The article, "Albert Goes Ape for Austen," describes how a 200-pound orangutan named Albert, living in the Gdansk Zoo in Poland, insists on having 50 pages a night of Pride and Prejudice read to him at bedtime by his keeper or else he refuses to go to sleep.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:05 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

How A 'Madwoman' Upended A Literary Boys Club

This week, the National Book Critics Circle announced that two feminist literary scholars, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, would be the recipients of its 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:15 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

George Saunders Lives Up To The Hype

George Saunders' previous books include In Persuasion Nation and The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip. He won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006.
Basso Cannarsa Courtesy Random House

I was baffled by the cover of The New York Times Magazine two Sundays ago. You may remember that the headline of the cover story was: "George Saunders Has Written The Best Book You'll Read This Year." I was baffled because the only George Saunders I could think of was that old movie star who was always playing cads in films like Rebecca and All About Eve.

Read more
Book Reviews
2:34 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

'Master' Jefferson: Defender Of Liberty, Then Slavery

Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 2:59 pm

His public words have inspired millions, but for scholars, his private words and deeds generate confusion, discomfort, apologetic excuses. When the young Thomas Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," there's compelling evidence to indicate that he indeed meant all men, not just white guys.

Read more
Book Reviews
1:50 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

'May We Be Forgiven': A Story Of Second Chances

Viking Adult

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 4:58 pm

A.M. Homes is a writer I'll pretty much follow anywhere because she's indeed so smart, it's scary; yet she's not without heart. It's been a while since her last book, the 2007 memoir The Mistress's Daughter, which is certainly the sharpest and most emotionally complex account of growing up adopted that I've ever read.

Read more
Book Reviews
11:55 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Roving Eyes, Wandering Hands In 'How You Lose Her'

Riverhead Books

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 3:58 pm

Ay-yi-yi, what is it with these Dominican men? Their hands — and eyes — never stop roving, even as they're slipping engagement rings on their true loves' fingers.

If that sounds like negative stereotyping, don't complain to me: I'm just passing along the collective cultural verdict of the women and men, most of them themselves Dominican, who hustle through Junot Diaz's latest short story collection, This Is How You Lose Her. A good man is hard to find in these stories, and when you do find him, he's always in bed with someone else.

Read more

Pages