Maureen Corrigan http://wesa.fm en This Tightly Choreographed Tale Of Ambition And Ballet Will 'Astonish' http://wesa.fm/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 26844 at http://wesa.fm This Tightly Choreographed Tale Of Ambition And Ballet Will 'Astonish' 'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction Of Life In Lagos http://wesa.fm/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 26451 at http://wesa.fm 'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction Of Life In Lagos What U.S. Learned From 'Heathen School' Wasn't Part Of The Lesson Plan http://wesa.fm/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 26065 at http://wesa.fm 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://wesa.fm/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 25386 at http://wesa.fm 'Schmuck' Revisits The Golden Age Of Radio, And A Bygone Manhattan These Stories Consider Solitude, With Echoes Of Emily Dickinson http://wesa.fm/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 18:50:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 25043 at http://wesa.fm These Stories Consider Solitude, With Echoes Of Emily Dickinson Don't Know What To Do With Your Life? Neither Did Thoreau http://wesa.fm/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 24544 at http://wesa.fm Don't Know What To Do With Your Life? Neither Did Thoreau Triumph Of The Bookworms: Two Novels To Cure Your Winter Blues http://wesa.fm/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 23937 at http://wesa.fm Triumph Of The Bookworms: Two Novels To Cure Your Winter Blues Midwestern Memoir Tracks 'Flyover Lives' Of Author's Forebears http://wesa.fm/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 21:08:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 23707 at http://wesa.fm Midwestern Memoir Tracks 'Flyover Lives' Of Author's Forebears On This Spanish Slave Ship, Nothing Was As It Seemed http://wesa.fm/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 23440 at http://wesa.fm On This Spanish Slave Ship, Nothing Was As It Seemed Chang-rae Lee Stretches For Dystopic Drama, But Doesn't Quite Reach http://wesa.fm/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 22822 at http://wesa.fm Chang-rae Lee Stretches For Dystopic Drama, But Doesn't Quite Reach Empty Nester In 'The Woods': A Modern Dantean Journey http://wesa.fm/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 22600 at http://wesa.fm Empty Nester In 'The Woods': A Modern Dantean Journey A Critic Tours 'Echo Spring,' Home Of Beloved Boozy Writers http://wesa.fm/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 22309 at http://wesa.fm A Critic Tours 'Echo Spring,' Home Of Beloved Boozy Writers Need A Read? Here Are Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2013 http://wesa.fm/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 21212 at http://wesa.fm Need A Read? Here Are Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2013 Thanksgivukkah Stress Getting You Down? Here's A Literary Escape Plan http://wesa.fm/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 20459 at http://wesa.fm Thanksgivukkah Stress Getting You Down? Here's A Literary Escape Plan A 'Marriage', A Divorce, A Dying Dog And Essays Done Right http://wesa.fm/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 19761 at http://wesa.fm A 'Marriage', A Divorce, A Dying Dog And Essays Done Right 'Self-Help Messiah' Dale Carnegie Gets A Second Life In Print http://wesa.fm/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 20:04:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 19448 at http://wesa.fm 'Self-Help Messiah' Dale Carnegie Gets A Second Life In Print Dickensian Ambition And Emotion Make 'Goldfinch' Worth The Wait http://wesa.fm/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 19061 at http://wesa.fm Dickensian Ambition And Emotion Make 'Goldfinch' Worth The Wait If You're Looking To Read 'Lady Things,' Choose Jezebel Over Jones http://wesa.fm/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 18482 at http://wesa.fm If You're Looking To Read 'Lady Things,' Choose Jezebel Over Jones Meet Ben's Sister Jane, History's Forgotten Franklin http://wesa.fm/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 17950 at http://wesa.fm Meet Ben's Sister Jane, History's Forgotten Franklin Out Of Lahiri's Muddy 'Lowland,' An Ambitious Story Soars http://wesa.fm/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 17766 at http://wesa.fm Out Of Lahiri's Muddy 'Lowland,' An Ambitious Story Soars Introducing 'Miss Anne,' The White Women Of A Black Renaissance http://wesa.fm/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 17:38:00 +0000 Maureen Corrigan 16621 at http://wesa.fm Introducing 'Miss Anne,' The White Women Of A Black Renaissance From McDermott, An Extraordinary Story Of An Ordinary 'Someone' http://wesa.fm/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 15968 at http://wesa.fm From McDermott, An Extraordinary Story Of An Ordinary 'Someone' A Gossipy, Nostalgic History Of A Publishing 'Hothouse' http://wesa.fm/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 14926 at http://wesa.fm A Gossipy, Nostalgic History Of A Publishing 'Hothouse' 'Love Affairs' Of A Hip, Young Literary Hound Dog http://wesa.fm/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 14376 at http://wesa.fm 'Love Affairs' Of A Hip, Young Literary Hound Dog With 'Arrangements' And 'The Rest,' Two Debut Novelists Arrive http://wesa.fm/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 14002 at http://wesa.fm With 'Arrangements' And 'The Rest,' Two Debut Novelists Arrive