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.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Kate Atkinson's 2013 novel "Life After Life" won critical praise for its achievement of being both a sweeping historical novel and an ingeniously constructed account of one woman's rather bumpy life's journey. Now, Atkinson has written what she calls a companion to "Life After Life." Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review of "A God In Ruins," which is also the selection for the ...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript 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. MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BYLINE: Earlier this week, my teenage daughter and a friend took a bus up to New York. Of course, I had to burden her with anxious advice like hold onto your...

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. Orwell lived intermittently on Jura in the few years before he died of tuberculosis in 1950; it was in that remote...

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...

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...

Ann Packer's new novel, The Children's Crusade , opens in California, on a scene that's so bedrock American, it's borderline corny. In the fall of 1954, a young Navy doctor newly discharged from service during the Korean War borrows a convertible and goes for a drive in the hills south of San Francisco. He follows a narrow road until he discovers a clearing where a beautiful live oak tree "stands guard." Instead of planting a flag, this modern day explorer, whose name is Bill Blair, puts a...

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. What those famous lines don't reveal about James is his erudition, lightly worn but very much on display in his latest...

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. Late one night in the 1970s, a janitor was mopping the floor in a grand Victorian mansion in Santa Fe that had been...

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...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. It's been 10 years since celebrated novelist Kazuo Ishiguro brought out his last novel. But our book critic Maureen Corrigan says Ishiguro's latest, called "The Buried Giant," was worth the wait. Here's her review. MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BYLINE: We know, but we don't know. We know that we'll lose those we love, that we're going to die, that the whole solar system will disappear one day. It...

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. It's an ambitious book that...

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. Anti...

"Does this obituary make me look fat?" I imagine that somewhere, in the Great Heavenly Outback, recently deceased Thorn Birds author Colleen McCullough is cracking jokes like that one with the likes of Gertrude Stein and Agatha Christie. I hope they're all having a good laugh over that obit of McCullough that ran in The Australian newspaper after her death on Jan. 29 and went viral on social media. Thirty-million books sold worldwide, an early career as a neurophysiologist at Yale and, yet,...

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. As a premise for a novel, this series-of-conversations idea initially sounded contrived to me — little more than an arty writing...

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...

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. The 17 brief stories in Death by Pastrami possess...

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

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. Thirty-four of Rash's best short stories from the past 20 years have just been published in a collection called Something Rich and Strange . They are that, indeed. Some of these stories are cold to the bone; others are empathetic and even funny. A few are set...

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...

It's such a goofy title. Let Me Be Frank with You is the latest installment in the odyssey of Frank Bascombe, the New Jersey Everyman Richard Ford introduced almost 30 years ago in his novel, The Sportswriter . Two more Frank Bascombe novels followed, and now this: a brilliant collection of four interconnected short stories of about 60 pages each in which Ford is indeed "being Frank" Bascombe with us once again, as well as being "frank" about all sorts of touchy topics in America, such as...

The disaster began on a day shift around lunchtime at a mine in Chile's Atacama Desert: Miners working deep inside a mountain, excavating for copper, gold and other minerals, started feeling vibrations. Suddenly, there was a massive explosion and the passageways of the mine filled up with a gritty dust cloud. When the dust settled, the men discovered the source of the explosion: "A single block of [stone] as tall as a forty-five-story building, ha[d] broken off from the rest of the mountain...

A new Hilary Mantel book is an Event with a "capital "E." Here's why: The first two best-selling novels in Mantel's planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies , each won the Man Booker Prize — that's a first. The BBC is filming an adaptation of Wolf Hall for airing in 2015, and Mantel's original short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher , was printed in The New York Times Book Review in September. That story is from Mantel's new short story collection...

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. (In fact, the whole issue was ignited by reaction to Claire Messud's novel, The Woman Upstairs , which features as its protagonist a rather glum elementary...

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. The Wray women have decidedly come down in the world: Frances' two brothers were killed in World War...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Novelist David Mitchell is the author of "Cloud Atlas," "The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet" and other novels containing multiple storylines that defy boundaries of time and genre. Our book critic, Maureen Corrigan, says that Mitchell's latest, "The Bone Clocks," is more of the same, but different. MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BYLINE: David Mitchell is one of those writers I'd follow anywhere,...

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