Maureen Corrigan http://wuis.org en This Tightly Choreographed Tale Of Ambition And Ballet Will 'Astonish' http://wuis.org/post/tightly-choreographed-tale-ambition-and-ballet-will-astonish The title of Maggie Shipstead's second novel is: <em>Astonish Me.</em> She did just that --astonish <em>me </em>-- with her debut novel of 2012, called <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/07/30/200738956/with-arrangements-and-the-rest-two-debut-novelists-arrive" target="_blank">Seating Arrangements</a>. Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:08:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 22081 at http://wuis.org This Tightly Choreographed Tale Of Ambition And Ballet Will 'Astonish' 'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction Of Life In Lagos http://wuis.org/post/thief-delivers-unfiltered-depiction-life-lagos Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first. Teju Cole's <em>Every Day Is For The Thief</em> 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, <em>Every Day Is For The Thief</em> describes a young New York doctor's visit back to his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria. Tue, 25 Mar 2014 18:05:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 21595 at http://wuis.org 'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction Of Life In Lagos What U.S. Learned From 'Heathen School' Wasn't Part Of The Lesson Plan http://wuis.org/post/what-us-learned-heathen-school-wasnt-part-lesson-plan 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.<p>As church bells begin to toll, some of the townspeople carry forward fake bodies meant to represent you and the man in the painting; someone else ignites a barrel of tar and the effigies begin burning — an image of looming eternal damnation. Tue, 18 Mar 2014 17:45:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 21116 at http://wuis.org What U.S. Learned From 'Heathen School' Wasn't Part Of The Lesson Plan 'Schmuck' Revisits The Golden Age Of Radio, And A Bygone Manhattan http://wuis.org/post/schmuck-revisits-golden-age-radio-and-bygone-manhattan Beginning in 1952, and running through 1968, there was a legendary radio show called <em>Klavan And Finch</em> 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.<p>Klavan's son, Ross, has just published an exuberant novel loosely based on his father's radio career. Wed, 05 Mar 2014 20:12:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 20229 at http://wuis.org 'Schmuck' Revisits The Golden Age Of Radio, And A Bygone Manhattan These Stories Consider Solitude, With Echoes Of Emily Dickinson http://wuis.org/post/these-stories-consider-solitude-echoes-emily-dickinson 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 <em>The New Yorker</em> and profiled in <em>The New York Times</em>, most culture vultures would know who she is. But, over the past couple of weeks when I mentioned her new book, <em>Bark</em>, in conversations, both in the halls of academe and over meals with friends, I mostly got blank stares. Wed, 26 Feb 2014 19:20:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 19751 at http://wuis.org These Stories Consider Solitude, With Echoes Of Emily Dickinson Don't Know What To Do With Your Life? Neither Did Thoreau http://wuis.org/post/dont-know-what-do-your-life-neither-did-thoreau 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, <em>The Adventures of Henry Thoreau. Mon, 17 Feb 2014 16:03:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 19137 at http://wuis.org Don't Know What To Do With Your Life? Neither Did Thoreau Triumph Of The Bookworms: Two Novels To Cure Your Winter Blues http://wuis.org/post/triumph-book-worms-two-novels-cure-your-winter-blues In the opening paragraph of <em>Moby-Dick,</em> 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 <em>Alena</em> and Katherine Pancol's <em>The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles</em> are smart entertainments perfect for curling up with on a winter's night. Wed, 05 Feb 2014 18:31:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 18361 at http://wuis.org Triumph Of The Bookworms: Two Novels To Cure Your Winter Blues Midwestern Memoir Tracks 'Flyover Lives' Of Author's Forebears http://wuis.org/post/midwestern-memoir-tracks-flyover-lives-authors-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.<p>So it is with her memoir, <em>Flyover Lives</em>, which is bookended by a moody anecdote. Johnson recalls how she and her husband were invited to spend a night at a friend's rental villa in Provence, France. Fri, 31 Jan 2014 16:13:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 18036 at http://wuis.org Midwestern Memoir Tracks 'Flyover Lives' Of Author's Forebears On This Spanish Slave Ship, Nothing Was As It Seemed http://wuis.org/post/spanish-slave-ship-nothing-was-it-seemed Shortly after sunrise, on the morning of Feb. 20, 1805, sailors on an American ship called the <em>Perseverance</em>, 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. Mon, 27 Jan 2014 17:48:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 17745 at http://wuis.org On This Spanish Slave Ship, Nothing Was As It Seemed Chang-rae Lee Stretches For Dystopic Drama, But Doesn't Quite Reach http://wuis.org/post/chang-rae-lee-stretches-dystopic-drama-doesnt-quite-reach 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-<em>Twilight</em> novel, <em>The Host</em>, where Earth has been colonized by alien parasites. Tue, 14 Jan 2014 18:44:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 16921 at http://wuis.org Chang-rae Lee Stretches For Dystopic Drama, But Doesn't Quite Reach Empty Nester In 'The Woods': A Modern Dantean Journey http://wuis.org/post/empty-nester-woods-modern-dantean-journey <blockquote><p>Midway upon the journey of our life<br />I found myself within a forest dark, Thu, 09 Jan 2014 19:00:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 16606 at http://wuis.org Empty Nester In 'The Woods': A Modern Dantean Journey A Critic Tours 'Echo Spring,' Home Of Beloved Boozy Writers http://wuis.org/post/critic-tours-echo-spring-home-beloved-boozy-writers 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 — <em>get this </em>-- 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.<p>It's that very ho-hum quality of the link between alcohol and writing, however, that got critic Olivia Laing interested in the subject. Fri, 03 Jan 2014 19:40:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 16242 at http://wuis.org A Critic Tours 'Echo Spring,' Home Of Beloved Boozy Writers Need A Read? Here Are Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2013 http://wuis.org/post/need-read-here-are-maureen-corrigans-favorite-books-2013 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.<p>Let's start with Alice McDermott. Without ever hamming up the humility, McDermott's latest novel, <a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/217326328/someone" target="_blank">Someone</a>, tells the life story of an ordinary woman named Marie who comes of age in mid-20th-century Brooklyn and works for a time in a funeral parlor. Wed, 11 Dec 2013 18:19:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 14791 at http://wuis.org Need A Read? Here Are Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2013 Thanksgivukkah Stress Getting You Down? Here's A Literary Escape Plan http://wuis.org/post/thanksgivukkah-stress-getting-you-down-heres-literary-escape-plan 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. Tue, 26 Nov 2013 21:15:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 13818 at http://wuis.org Thanksgivukkah Stress Getting You Down? Here's A Literary Escape Plan A 'Marriage', A Divorce, A Dying Dog And Essays Done Right http://wuis.org/post/marriage-divorce-dying-dog-and-essays-done-right 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. Wed, 13 Nov 2013 19:44:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 12955 at http://wuis.org A 'Marriage', A Divorce, A Dying Dog And Essays Done Right 'Self-Help Messiah' Dale Carnegie Gets A Second Life In Print http://wuis.org/post/self-help-messiah-dale-carnegie-gets-second-life-print "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.<p>Dale Carnegie's book <em>How to Win Friends and Influence People</em> came out in November 1936 and has gone on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide — making it one of the best-selling nonfiction books in American history. Thu, 07 Nov 2013 20:50:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 12565 at http://wuis.org 'Self-Help Messiah' Dale Carnegie Gets A Second Life In Print Dickensian Ambition And Emotion Make 'Goldfinch' Worth The Wait http://wuis.org/post/dickensian-ambition-and-emotion-make-goldfinch-worth-wait "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, <em>The Goldfinch</em>, is Dickensian both in the ambition of its jumbo, coincidence-laced plot, as well as in its symphonic range of emotions. Thu, 31 Oct 2013 18:53:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 12090 at http://wuis.org Dickensian Ambition And Emotion Make 'Goldfinch' Worth The Wait If You're Looking To Read 'Lady Things,' Choose Jezebel Over Jones http://wuis.org/post/if-youre-looking-read-lady-things-choose-jezebel-over-jones 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 <em>Mad About the Boy,</em> is painful to read.<p>Speaking as an original Bridget fan, I would have hoped that by 51, the age she is here, Bridget would have become more grounded. Mon, 21 Oct 2013 17:22:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 11369 at http://wuis.org If You're Looking To Read 'Lady Things,' Choose Jezebel Over Jones Meet Ben's Sister Jane, History's Forgotten Franklin http://wuis.org/post/meet-bens-sister-jane-historys-forgotten-franklin "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.<p>"I am in the middle of a grate wash," she once wrote in a letter. The crumbly green and white soap Jane would have used for that "grate wash" was from an old Franklin family recipe. Thu, 10 Oct 2013 17:13:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 10672 at http://wuis.org Meet Ben's Sister Jane, History's Forgotten Franklin Out Of Lahiri's Muddy 'Lowland,' An Ambitious Story Soars http://wuis.org/post/out-lahiris-muddy-lowland-ambitious-story-soars Geography is destiny in Jhumpa Lahiri's new novel, <em>The Lowland</em>. 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. Mon, 07 Oct 2013 17:53:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 10449 at http://wuis.org Out Of Lahiri's Muddy 'Lowland,' An Ambitious Story Soars Introducing 'Miss Anne,' The White Women Of A Black Renaissance http://wuis.org/post/introducing-miss-anne-white-women-black-renaissance 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. Mon, 16 Sep 2013 17:16:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 8963 at http://wuis.org Introducing 'Miss Anne,' The White Women Of A Black Renaissance From McDermott, An Extraordinary Story Of An Ordinary 'Someone' http://wuis.org/post/mcdermott-extraordinary-story-ordinary-someone 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, <em>Someone</em>. "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. Wed, 04 Sep 2013 17:30:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 8346 at http://wuis.org From McDermott, An Extraordinary Story Of An Ordinary 'Someone' A Gossipy, Nostalgic History Of A Publishing 'Hothouse' http://wuis.org/post/gossipy-nostalgic-history-publishing-hothouse 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. Thu, 15 Aug 2013 17:41:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 7351 at http://wuis.org A Gossipy, Nostalgic History Of A Publishing 'Hothouse' 'Love Affairs' Of A Hip, Young Literary Hound Dog http://wuis.org/post/love-affairs-hip-young-literary-hound-dog Before I read Adelle Waldman's brilliant debut novel, <em>The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.</em>, I had about as much interest in reading about the hip, young literary types who've colonized Brooklyn as I do in watching <em>Duck Dynasty</em>, 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. Tue, 06 Aug 2013 15:30:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 6832 at http://wuis.org 'Love Affairs' Of A Hip, Young Literary Hound Dog With 'Arrangements' And 'The Rest,' Two Debut Novelists Arrive http://wuis.org/post/arrangements-and-rest-two-debut-novelists-arrive 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 <em>Seating Arrangements</em>, Maggie Shipstead's debut novel from last summer. Tue, 30 Jul 2013 17:06:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 6503 at http://wuis.org With 'Arrangements' And 'The Rest,' Two Debut Novelists Arrive The Only Surprise In Rowling's 'Cuckoo's Calling' Is The Author http://wuis.org/post/only-surprise-rowlings-cuckoos-calling-author Call it "The Mystery of the Missing Book Sales" — and I don't think we'll be needing to bring Sherlock Holmes in to solve this one. In April, a debut mystery called<em> The Cuckoo's Calling</em> was published. It appeared to be written by an unknown British writer named Robert Galbraith, who was identified on the book jacket as a former military cop now working in private security. Thu, 18 Jul 2013 17:40:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 5940 at http://wuis.org The Only Surprise In Rowling's 'Cuckoo's Calling' Is The Author American Mystery Finds A New Voice On 'The Bohemian Highway' http://wuis.org/post/american-mystery-finds-new-voice-bohemian-highway It's been a while since I've heard a distinctive new American voice in mystery fiction: That <em>Girl With the Dragon Tattoo</em> dame seems to have put our homegrown hard-boiled detectives in the deep freeze. The mystery news of the past few years has chiefly come out of the Land of the Midnight Sun<em>, </em>dominated by the late Stieg Larsson and fellow Swedes Camilla Lackberg and Hakan Nesser, as well as Norwegians Anne Holt, Karin Fossum and Jo Nesbo. Tue, 02 Jul 2013 18:36:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 5143 at http://wuis.org American Mystery Finds A New Voice On 'The Bohemian Highway' In 'TransAtlantic,' The Flight Is Almost Too Smooth http://wuis.org/post/transatlantic-flight-almost-too-smooth Here we go into the wild blue yonder again with Colum McCann. In his 2009 novel, <em>Let the Great World Spin</em>, McCann swooped readers up into the air with the French aerialist Philippe Petit, who staged an illegal high-wire stunt walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Strictly speaking, <em>Let the Great World Spin</em> was not a Sept. 11 novel, and yet almost everyone rightly read it as one, since McCann's tale commemorated the towers at the literal zenith of their history. Mon, 17 Jun 2013 17:42:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 4427 at http://wuis.org In 'TransAtlantic,' The Flight Is Almost Too Smooth 'Beside Ourselves' Explores Human-Animal Connections http://wuis.org/post/beside-ourselves-explores-human-animal-connections <em>Note: The audio and text of this review describe a major plot point that is not revealed until partway into the book.</em><p>If you know Karen Joy Fowler's writing only from her clever, 2004 best-seller, <em>The Jane Austen Book Club,</em> you're in for a shock. Fri, 07 Jun 2013 18:30:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 3944 at http://wuis.org 'Beside Ourselves' Explores Human-Animal Connections After WWII, A Letter Of Appreciation That Still Rings True http://wuis.org/post/after-wwii-letter-appreciation-still-rings-true 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.<p>One story he did tell me, because it haunted him, was about a shipmate who was lost on duty one night. Mon, 27 May 2013 15:18:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 3297 at http://wuis.org After WWII, A Letter Of Appreciation That Still Rings True