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Leave me alone, I'm reading : finding and losing myself in books
Maureen Corrigan
Adult Nonfiction Z1003.2 .C67 2005

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Summary: As book reviewer for NPR's Fresh Air and contributor to many publications, Maureen Corrigan literally reads for a living. For as long as she can remember, books have been at the center of her life, a never-failing source of astonishment, hard truths, new horizons, and welcome companionship. Now Corrigan has added a volume of her own to the shelf of classics, by reading her life of reading with all the attention to complexity, wit, and intelligence that any good book-or life-deserves. Part memoir, part coming-of-age story, and part reflection on favorite and influential books, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading views the world through an open book. From her unpretentious girlhood in the working-class neighborhood of Sunnyside, Queens, to her bemused years in an Ivy League Ph.D. program, from the whirl of falling in love and marrying (a fellow bookworm, of course), to the ordeal of adopting a baby overseas, Corrigan has always had a book at her side. We read this life in reverse as Corrigan begins the book as a "professional reader" always conscious of the many people, like her own mother, who don't "get" the power of reading, and we end up as a fly on the wall of this only child in Queens, transported to exciting yet threatening worlds beyond her small apartment, a block from the #7 subway. Corrigan's references range from Richard Wright to Philip Roth to Chekhov, but certain themes emerge. Corrigan subverts the classic "man conquers mountain or ocean or battlefield" genre by juxtaposing it with what she calls "female extreme adventure novels"-books such as Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, the Collected Poems of Stevie Smith, and Anna Quindlen's Black and Blue, which feature women quietly fighting for their lives. Hard-boiled detective stories that cloak social criticisms of work and family beneath their protagonist's trench coat--Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, Sara Paretsky's mysteries-are another abiding passion. More surprising, and perhaps more revealing, is her taste for tales of Catholic martyrs and secular saints, a holdover from her days in parochial school that left an indelible impression. Moving from page to life and back again, Corrigan writes ultimately of fashioning a complicated, sometimes contradictory self out of her class background, her classroom teaching, and her own classics of literature; a list of favorite books is also included. In Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading, Maureen Corrigan invites us to accompany her on the journey of a lifetime.


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