1. A debut novel by Yelena Akhtiorskaya puts a fresh, comic spin on the age-old coming to America story. Her novel is called Panic in a Suitcase and Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review: 

I can’t tell you the names of my great-grandparents, left behind in Poland and Ireland, because nobody ever mentioned them.  The break was that final.  
These days of course, it’s different.  Within the space of a few hours, people can fly across oceans; through skyping and e-mail, they can electronically commute between Old World and New.  Three cheers for The March of Progress, right?  Except, if you want to make a definitive break how can you when the Old World is always calling you on the phone, texting, and crashing on your living room couch for extended visits? That’s the crucial question Yelena Akhtiorskaya mulls over in her sharply observed and very funny debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase.  Akhtiorskaya, who was born in Odessa and emigrated to the Russian immigrant enclave of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn at the age of seven, writes of the fictional Nasmertov family, whose move from Old World to New imitates her own.  
View in High-Res

    A debut novel by Yelena Akhtiorskaya puts a fresh, comic spin on the age-old coming to America story. Her novel is called Panic in a Suitcase and Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review: 

    I can’t tell you the names of my great-grandparents, left behind in Poland and Ireland, because nobody ever mentioned them.  The break was that final. 

    These days of course, it’s different.  Within the space of a few hours, people can fly across oceans; through skyping and e-mail, they can electronically commute between Old World and New.  Three cheers for The March of Progress, right?  Except, if you want to make a definitive break how can you when the Old World is always calling you on the phone, texting, and crashing on your living room couch for extended visits? That’s the crucial question Yelena Akhtiorskaya mulls over in her sharply observed and very funny debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase.  Akhtiorskaya, who was born in Odessa and emigrated to the Russian immigrant enclave of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn at the age of seven, writes of the fictional Nasmertov family, whose move from Old World to New imitates her own.  

  2. fresh air

    maureen corrigan

    panic in a suitcase

    book review

    yelena akhtiorskaya

  1. Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Friendship, a novel by Emily Gould about two friends in their early thirties, whose relationship crumbles: 

"Friendship has its moments, but its simple vision of female friendship as the dependable consolation prize when nothing else in life works out feels more high school than feminist.  Then again, in a summer where Katie Couric announces her marriage to financier John Molner by tweeting, “So excited to make my debut as Mrs. John Molner!” maybe even the mildest expression of Gen X feminist solidarity is something to cheer on, rather than criticize.”

    Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Friendship, a novel by Emily Gould about two friends in their early thirties, whose relationship crumbles: 

    "Friendship has its moments, but its simple vision of female friendship as the dependable consolation prize when nothing else in life works out feels more high school than feminist.  Then again, in a summer where Katie Couric announces her marriage to financier John Molner by tweeting, “So excited to make my debut as Mrs. John Molner!” maybe even the mildest expression of Gen X feminist solidarity is something to cheer on, rather than criticize.”

  2. friendship

    maureen corrigan

    emily gould

    book review

    feminism

  1. Fresh Air’s book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Hotel Florida: Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill, a romantic biography with “enduring mystique:” 

Amanda Vaill isn’t after anything as quixotic as trying to “set the record straight” on the Spanish Civil War; instead, she delves deeply into the lives of three couples whose chronicling of the war shaped public perception. Some of her subjects — like Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn and war photographer Robert Capa — are famous; others, like photographer Gerda Taro and Spanish journalist Arturo Barea, should be better known. Their paths crossed in Spain and all six spent time in the Hotel Florida, “a ten-story marble-clad jewel box” in Madrid, where journalists, diplomats, prostitutes, pilots and spies drank together and dived for cover as bombs whistled over the city at night. Ultimately, what Vaill seems to be mulling over in this book is the age-old question of what war does to people: whether it brings out altruism or naked self-interest. Spoiler alert: In Vaill’s account Hemingway fails the sniff test.
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air’s book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Hotel Florida: Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill, a romantic biography with “enduring mystique:” 

    Amanda Vaill isn’t after anything as quixotic as trying to “set the record straight” on the Spanish Civil War; instead, she delves deeply into the lives of three couples whose chronicling of the war shaped public perception. Some of her subjects — like Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn and war photographer Robert Capa — are famous; others, like photographer Gerda Taro and Spanish journalist Arturo Barea, should be better known. Their paths crossed in Spain and all six spent time in the Hotel Florida, “a ten-story marble-clad jewel box” in Madrid, where journalists, diplomats, prostitutes, pilots and spies drank together and dived for cover as bombs whistled over the city at night. Ultimately, what Vaill seems to be mulling over in this book is the age-old question of what war does to people: whether it brings out altruism or naked self-interest. Spoiler alert: In Vaill’s account Hemingway fails the sniff test.

  2. madrid

    history

    biography

    book review

    maureen corrigan

  1. On the fence about Thoreau? Maureen Corrigan found a book that might surprise you, because it surprised her. She reviews The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Yong Man’s Unlikely Path to Walden Pond by Michael Sims:

Sims’ Thoreau still comes off as a monologue-spouting eccentric who has trouble connecting, especially with women. But, Sims is more persuasive when it comes to his second aim: Emphasizing Thoreau’s crucial shift from a Romantic to a scientific view of nature. Rather than simply waxing poetic about the beauties of Walden Pond when he moved out there in 1845, Thoreau measured it — literally — by walking out on the winter ice and plumbing its depths hundreds of times with a line and sinker. He also recorded the pond’s temperatures and the bloom times of surrounding flowers and plants.
Sims’ Thoreau is most appealing in these stretches when he’s completely absorbed in these apparently random studies — studies that have now become essential to ecologists today who are charting climate change and using them as measures of comparison.
The Adventures of Henry Thoreau is a rich, entertaining testament to the triumph of a young man who never comfortably fit in, but who made a place for himself, nonetheless.


View in High-Res

    On the fence about Thoreau? Maureen Corrigan found a book that might surprise you, because it surprised her. She reviews The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Yong Man’s Unlikely Path to Walden Pond by Michael Sims:

    Sims’ Thoreau still comes off as a monologue-spouting eccentric who has trouble connecting, especially with women. But, Sims is more persuasive when it comes to his second aim: Emphasizing Thoreau’s crucial shift from a Romantic to a scientific view of nature. Rather than simply waxing poetic about the beauties of Walden Pond when he moved out there in 1845, Thoreau measured it — literally — by walking out on the winter ice and plumbing its depths hundreds of times with a line and sinker. He also recorded the pond’s temperatures and the bloom times of surrounding flowers and plants.

    Sims’ Thoreau is most appealing in these stretches when he’s completely absorbed in these apparently random studies — studies that have now become essential to ecologists today who are charting climate change and using them as measures of comparison.

    The Adventures of Henry Thoreau is a rich, entertaining testament to the triumph of a young man who never comfortably fit in, but who made a place for himself, nonetheless.

  2. henry david thoreau

    michael sims

    maureen corrigan

    book review

  1. Posted on 5 February, 2014

    17,725 notes | Permalink

    Reblogged from cheynesaw

    
"In the opening paragraph of Moby-Dick, 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 outta town.  This year I have, thanks to two exquisite vehicles of escape fiction.  Rachel Pastan’s Alena and Katherine Pancol’s The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles are both smart entertainments perfect for curling up with on a winter’s night.  Admittedly, they both fall into that much-disputed category of “women’s fiction,” but I urge male readers not to feel automatically excluded, much as we women readers have learned to gamely step aboard into boy’s-only clubs like that of, say, The Pequod.”

Maureen Corrigan reviews Alena and The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, “ escape fantasies about shy book wormy types triumphing over glossy power divas. ”

    "In the opening paragraph of Moby-Dick, 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 outta town.  This year I have, thanks to two exquisite vehicles of escape fiction.  Rachel Pastan’s Alena and Katherine Pancol’s The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles are both smart entertainments perfect for curling up with on a winter’s night.  Admittedly, they both fall into that much-disputed category of “women’s fiction,” but I urge male readers not to feel automatically excluded, much as we women readers have learned to gamely step aboard into boy’s-only clubs like that of, say, The Pequod.”

    Maureen Corrigan reviews Alena and The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, “ escape fantasies about shy book wormy types triumphing over glossy power divas. 

    (Source: cheynesaw)

  2. fresh air

    maureen corrigan

    book review

    alena by rachel pastan

    the yellow eyes of crocodiles

    beach

    escape

    fantasy

    reading

  1. 
"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."

That’s Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan speaking about Diane Johnson and her new memoir, Flyover Lives. Unlike many of her previous books (like Le Divorce and L’Affiare) that take place in Paris, Flyover Lives takes us to Johnson’s roots in the American Midwest.

You can read the review here.

image via Chicago Tribune  View in High-Res

    "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."

    That’s Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan speaking about Diane Johnson and her new memoir, Flyover Lives. Unlike many of her previous books (like Le Divorce and L’Affiare) that take place in Paris, Flyover Lives takes us to Johnson’s roots in the American Midwest.

    You can read the review here.

    image via Chicago Tribune 

  2. fresh air

    book review

    maureen corrigan

    diane johnson

    midwest

    memoir

    le divorce

  1. Maureen Corrigan has a review. 

  2. fresh air

    book review

    slave trade

    the empire of necessity

    greg grandin

    slavery

    nonfiction

  1. Some writers you read and move on, but every now and then you read one whose work knocks you back against the wall. This happened to me with the great Italian novelist Elena Ferrante.

    — Critic at-large John Powers discusses the “fearless power” of Elena Ferrante and her new novel, “The Story of a New Name.”

  2. fresh air

    book review

    john powers

    elena ferrante

  1. For roughly a century and a half, the Brontes have been the subject of biographies that, much like poor Branwell’s painting, cover up more than they reveal. When Barker’s monumental family biography of the Brontes was published in 1994, it was as though a skilled restorer had come along to work on the group portrait, gently rubbing off the lurid colors of myth and gossip, and revealing the bones of truth underneath.

    Now, Barker has updated the biography — which has become the standard Bronte biography — with new material. The footnotes alone, in this new edition of The Brontes, run to 136 pages. It’s rare that I have occasion to say this, but, taken collectively, those footnotes are thrilling. Referencing sources as diverse and dry as the daily engagement diaries of obscure Bronte neighbors, Barker attests to the fact that with steady scholarly detective work, the truth of the past can slowly be approached.

    —Maureen Corrigan reviews a new edition of the landmark biography, The Brontes

  2. Fresh Air

    book review

    Maureen Corrigan

    The Brontes

  1. The Age of Miracles is literary fiction, but it spins out the same kind of “what if?” disaster plot that distinguishes many a classic sci-fi movie. Too bad the title The Day the Earth Stood Still was already taken, because it really would have been the perfect title for Thompson’s novel.

    — Maureen Corrigan reviews a melancholy page-turner that’s more than just a disaster plot.

  2. the age of miracles

    maureen corrigan

    book review

  1. Maureen Corrigan reviews Alice Kessler-Harris’ new biography of Lillian Hellman. An excerpt:”Born in New Orleans into a Jewish family, Lillian Hellman came of age in the Roaring ’20s, liberated by flappers and Freud. Hellman drank like a fish, swore like a sailor and slept around like, well, like most of the men in her literary circle, chief among them Dashiell Hammett, with whom she had an open relationship spanning three decades. She was, recalled one observer, a “tough broad … the kind of girl who can take the tops off bottles with her teeth.” View in High-Res

    Maureen Corrigan reviews Alice Kessler-Harris’ new biography of Lillian Hellman. An excerpt:”Born in New Orleans into a Jewish family, Lillian Hellman came of age in the Roaring ’20s, liberated by flappers and Freud. Hellman drank like a fish, swore like a sailor and slept around like, well, like most of the men in her literary circle, chief among them Dashiell Hammett, with whom she had an open relationship spanning three decades. She was, recalled one observer, a “tough broad … the kind of girl who can take the tops off bottles with her teeth.”

  2. lillian hellman

    alice kessler-harris

    book review

    maureen corrigan

  1. Now, if you’re like me, you may be skeptical of any book about a man with a pet penguin.

    — The 1996 novel Death and the Penguin is a fast-paced, witty read and what critic John Powers calls "an almost perfect novel."

  2. death and the penguin

    andrey kurkov

    john powers

    book review

  1. Most novels these days don’t look farther than their front yards for their subject matter, or sometimes just the bottom of the protagonist’s shot glass; Nadine Gordimer, however, like her great Eastern European contemporary, Milan Kundera, sees history, power, and a gnawing desire for something secular, yet entwined in every mundane gesture.

    — Maureen Corrigan reviews Nadine Gordimer’s latest novel, No Time Like The Present.

  2. maureen corrigan

    book review

    nadine gordimer

    no time like the present

  1. Publishers initially passed on Lionel Shriver’s satire on terrorism, The New Republic. The manuscript languished in a drawer until now, but can a work written 13 years ago remain relevant today? View in High-Res

    Publishers initially passed on Lionel Shriver’s satire on terrorism, The New Republic. The manuscript languished in a drawer until now, but can a work written 13 years ago remain relevant today?

  2. lionel shriver

    the new republic

    maureen corrigan

    book review

  1. Maureen Corrigan reviews Coral Glynn, the newest novel from Peter Cameron: “I was in my local independent bookstore last week, enjoying the endangered pleasure of wandering around and snuffling through interesting-looking books when I overheard two women talking in front of the new releases section. “I need a new British novelist,” one of them said. Ladies, I should have spoken up, but the moment passed and, besides, it was too awkward to explain that the one of the best British novelists writing today was born in New Jersey.”

'Coral Glynn': The Art Of Repression (via 'Coral Glynn': The Art Of Repression : NPR)

    Maureen Corrigan reviews Coral Glynn, the newest novel from Peter Cameron: “I was in my local independent bookstore last week, enjoying the endangered pleasure of wandering around and snuffling through interesting-looking books when I overheard two women talking in front of the new releases section. “I need a new British novelist,” one of them said. Ladies, I should have spoken up, but the moment passed and, besides, it was too awkward to explain that the one of the best British novelists writing today was born in New Jersey.

    'Coral Glynn': The Art Of Repression (via 'Coral Glynn': The Art Of Repression : NPR)

  2. coral glynn

    peter cameron

    book review

    maureen corrigan