Friday, August 8, 2008

Leave Me Alone, I'm Maureen Corrigan

I'm late reading Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books, by NPR book critic, Maureen Corrigan. It was published in 2005. But now I'm promoting it to my most bookish friends, especially those that might relate to the author's Irish/Polish Catholic childhood, her New York City roots, her love of detective fiction, or her excruciating journey through a PHD program.

Corrigan weaves together elements of memoir and book commentary with sure handed ease. She uses the metaphor of adventure to compare life and literature. For instance, her maternal grandmother immigrated to New York from Poland. Coming to a new country, not knowing the language, was surely an extreme adventure. Corrigan's own adventures mostly took place between the covers of a book, especially through mystery fiction, where she found herself "raring to become one of the cheeky heroines". Then she and her husband went on a journey to adopt their daughter from a remote region of China, and she realized she was on her very own extreme adventure.

One childhood series that Corrigan analyzes is the Beany Malone series by Leonora Mattingly Weber, published from 1943 - 1969. I'm sure I read most of them published through the mid-60s. But I'd completely forgotten about them, so it was a joy to meet Beany again. Beany comes from a big Irish Catholic family, has freckles and braids, and she's a fresh air fiend and tomboy (rare in fiction then). How strongly this character comes back to me. In a chapter entitled "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition: What Catholic Martyr Stories Taught Me About Getting to Heaven - and Getting Even", Corrigan demonstrates how certain Catholic values are exemplified by the fictional Malones, including: self-denial, modesty, generosity and love of our fellow humans. Other books analyzed in this chapter include Karen and With Love From Karen by Marie Killilea and works by Dr. Tom Dooley.

Maureen Corrigan admits that some part of her always prefers to be reading, even when she is with the ones she most loves. Luckily, she married another insatiable reader and has been able to base her life on love of books. Repelled by the tone of most academic literary criticism, she is happy being a generalist, and therefore chooses to be a non-tenured academic. Reader to reader, I relate to the ultra importance of books in her journey through life. My reading fanaticism started around second grade and has never let up.

P.S. I was recently tagged in a meme by Felicia Mitchell, a friend in academia. The meme assignment: to list in a blog which book, DVD and music/audiobook I have most recently purchased. I am swamped with books at the library and mostly buy them to be mailed to my mother. Often I read some of them when I visit her. She really enjoyed the last one I sent her, Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars by Bill Berloni and Jim Hanrahan. DVD: It's been a long time since I bought one, but one for sure was: Wings of Desire, which I'd love to watch again real soon. Music: I have the sound track from the movie Into the Wild on order. I love Eddie Vedder's songs based on journal fragments left behind by Chris McCandless.

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