Tag Archives: Kelly Corrigan

First Book of the Year 2018

Every New Year’s Day, Sheila from Book Journey hosts First Book of the Year where bloggers share … well, the first book they plan to read in the new year. I love this event because for as long as I can remember, I’ve always put considerable thought (perhaps too much) into the perfect book to launch another trip around the sun. Just like the invitation for a special event,  I think the first book can set the tone for the year.

Sometimes I’ve chosen something that aligns with my goals for the year, sometimes it has been a classic I’ve been wanting to read, and other times my choice is simply a book that seems to be right for the moment. I like my first book to be upbeat, perhaps somewhat inspirational, preferably by an author I’ve previously enjoyed.

For 2018, I’ve chosen a book by one of my favorite authors: Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan. I loved each of her previous books (The Middle Place, Glitter and Glue, Lift) and can’t wait to read this new one which is scheduled to be published next week (release date January 9).

(Truth be told, I’m probably going to be reading this and a review book since my first freelancing assignment is due January 6 — so this may very well wind up not being my actual first book — but we’ll just stick with this one in case the latter doesn’t work out.)

One of the fun things Sheila does for First Book of the Year is to create a photo collage of participants with our books. I can’t imagine how much work this is, but I love seeing what everyone else is reading.  You can check out our photos and book selections here.

Happy 2018 and happy reading!

 

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glitter remains / for kelly corrigan

Bird's nest

When you lose your father, you don’t do certain things.

For starters, you don’t read memoirs about father-daughter relationships, because regardless of what your relationship with your dad was like, it is still too sad – yes, even 30 years later – to Go There.

Until you pick up The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan, who shares in her gorgeous, heartfelt memoir the story of her relationship with her gregarious, larger-than-life dad as both of them experience cancer at the same time.  There, in the first few pages, Kelly Corrigan writes about her father, who is called Greenie by everyone he’s ever said hello to in his life.

“He does that for me too. He makes me feel smart, funny, and beautiful, which has become the job of the few men who have loved me since. He told me once that I was a great talker. And so I was. I was a conversationalist, along with creative, a notion he put in my head when I was in grade school and used to make huge, intricate collages from his old magazines. He defined me first, as parents do. Those early characteristics can become the shimmering self-image we embrace or the limited, stifling perception we rail against for a lifetime. In my case, he sees me as I would like to be seen. In fact, I’m not even sure what’s true about me, since I have always chosen to believe his version.” (pg. 3-4)

Four pages in and you are right back to where you once belonged, remembering what it was like, once upon a time. And perhaps, what could have been.

*
The first Facebook post I saw this morning was from Kelly Corrigan.

Somehow, the best person I ever knew slipped away from me tonight. I tried like hell to keep him, my Greenie, but it turned out he was just human after all. Such love. Such love love love. Lucky me.

*

Several years ago when I finished reading The Middle Place, the first thing I did was – this is sort of embarrassing and crazy-sounding, but what the hell – was to embark on a Google search to see how Greenie was doing in his own fight against cancer.

I fully realize this makes me sound a little off-kilter. Exceptional books do that to you; the words become something more as they make you feel as though you are inside the pages themselves.

Maybe part of that can be attributed to the “reader’s response” theory that Kelly recalls from one of her literature class (“more often than not, it’s the readers – not the writers – who determine what a book means. The idea is that readers don’t come blank to books. Consciously and not, we bring all the biases that comes with our nationality, gender, race, class, age. Then you layer onto that the status of our health,  employment, and relationship and our particular relationship to each book – who gave it to us, where we’ve read it, what books we’ve already read – and that massive array of added spices has as much to do with the flavor of the soup as whatever the cook intended.” Glitter and Glue)

Kelly Corrigan’s writing style is absolutely superb, completely engaging and heartfelt. I’m not surprised at how much I love her books (The Middle Place, Lift and Glitter and Glue) because, like me, Kelly is a Philly girl. Much of her books takes place on Philadelphia’s Main Line, a part of the area that I’m very familiar with and very fond thereof. I’m partial to well-written books that take place in my city.

Whether it’s the reader’s response theory or damn good writing, Kelly Corrigan has a way of making her reader feel like you are an honorary member of the Corrigan family for the duration.

And although I never met the man, what I read about him makes me believe that her dad Greenie wouldn’t have it any other way.

*
Published last year and newly released in paperback, Glitter and Glue takes its title from Kelly’s mother, who is as much the focus of this memoir as Greenie was in The Middle Place.

“Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue,” Mary Corrigan had said, meaning that it takes both the sparkling effervescence of a Greenie and the practical, keeping-everything-together nature of a Mary to have a successful marriage and family. It’s the yin and yang of how parents relate to their children and to each other.   

It is that substance – the symbolic glitter and glue – that is the tangible and intangible stuff that makes us the people we are.

Glitter also never quite disappears. If you’ve ever used glitter in a craft project with kids or gotten a greeting card adorned with the stuff, you know it is here forever; always with you. It is the ultimate permanent record. It is the shiny specks of that  “shimmering self-image” that those we love give to us and that we carry, always, made all the better for their gift and ready to pass the love on.

Yes, faith, hope and love remain.

And glitter.

May it be so with Greenie. Your dad’s spirit was larger-than-life, Kelly, with more than enough for everyone and then some. Thank you for sharing him with your readers.

 

 

 

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The Sunday Salon: Yet Another Best Books of 2014 List

The Sunday Salon

All the cool kids have one. By the end of this blog post, I will too.

Unless you’ve been living under a literary rock, suddenly everyone who has read anything during the past year has popped up with their Best Books of 2014 List.

My initial reaction to that was somewhere between “Oooooh book lists!”  and “Bah freakin’ humbug.”

I mean, doesn’t it seem too soon for this? I know, I know … there are only 23 days left in the year (!!) and chances are that you’re I’m not going to read that many more books in that timeframe, even though I have 10 more books to go before reaching my yearly goal of 75 and dammit, I am going to try my damnedest to achieve that.

(It’s doable. Completely doable.)

So, a compromise. I’m still planning to do my annual Best Books I Read in 2014 lists, as I do. Those will include books published in any year. Look for those later in the month. In the spirit of things, however, here are my picks for Best Books I Read That Were Published in 2014.

Hope for a Sea Change

Hope for a Sea Change, by Elizabeth Aquino (SheBooks, 57 pages)
I met Elizabeth through the special needs parent blogger world, and her writing – honest, raw, quietly searing – knocks me out with every single post. Elizabeth is a fierce advocate for her daughter Sophie, who has a rare form of epilepsy.  Hope for a Sea Change is about the early days of diagnosis, the desperate search for answers from misinformed specialists, and the emergence of a mother’s strength.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday, 288 pages)
In my review for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I wrote that “it’s possible to view this novel “as sounding an alarm on the many disasters facing this generation: teenage homelessness, prostitution and sex trafficking, drug addiction, environmental and energy crises, school shootings, absentee parents. Like the [fictional] nuclear power plant [disaster in the novel], our world itself can seem in a perpetual state of meltdown.”

Glitter and Glue

Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan (Ballantine Books, 240 pages)
I read this memoir in less than two days. (It probably would have been quicker, had I not been recuperating from gall bladder surgery.) Glitter and Glue is a follow up, of sorts to Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place, the story of her having cancer at the same time as her father. Here, Kelly writes about her relationship with her pragmatic mother, her time as a nanny for a grieving family, and the life lessons she had to leave the house – and the country – to learn.

Gabriel

Gabriel: A Poem, by Edward Hirsch (Alfred A. Knopf, 96 pages)
In this book-length poem, Edward Hirsch opens the door into his shattered world after the death of his 22 year old son Gabriel. As a society, we don’t often talk about grief in the way that Edward Hirsch does in these 78 pages – and our grief memoirs are rarely left unresolved. We’re used to some big revelation of acceptance, of peace. That’s not this book. This is anger and sadness and disbelief (“I wish I could believe in the otherworld/ I wish I could believe in a place/ Of reunions outside of memory”) and it is haunting.

Perfect

Perfect, by Rachel Joyce (Random House, 361 pages)
Maybe this doesn’t count as a “published in 2014” book because it was first published last year, but whatever. All that matters is that this novel is a work of art – except for the cover, which is absolutely ridiculous (it’s set in 1972, so that probably has something to do with it). The writing and the plot shines. And the characters … you won’t forget these folks for a second.

Nest. Flight. Sky.

Nest. Flight. Sky. On Love and Loss, One Wing at a Time, by Beth Kephart (SheBooks, 37 pages)
A book by Beth Kephart usually makes it onto my best of lists, and this one is no exception. I would have loved this memoir – which marks the first time in several years that Beth has returned to the form – even if I wasn’t reading it in the middle of the night, wide awake in a hospital bed while recuperating from the gall bladder surgery. This was a book that found me at the right time.

History of the Rain

History of the Rain, by Niall Williams (Bloomsbury, 358 pages)
Nominated for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, History of the Rain was among my favorite books this year. I still think it should have won the Booker, but I also didn’t read all the selections. Still, this story about an Irish family dealing with so much literal and figurative rain is spectacular.Along with the writing, Williams draws you in with unforgettable characters. Ruthie is so smart, so sensitive and insightful  (“Hope, you see, takes a long time to die,”) yet so sad without the ones she loves.

What about you? What books published in 2014 are going to make it onto your best-of list?

For those of you who (like me) can’t get enough of year-end book lists, Penguin Random House is compiling the ultimate collection of best books of 2014 lists on Tumblr.

 

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Book Review (Audio): Lift, by Kelly Corrigan


Lift, by Kelly Corrigan
published 2010
Random House, Inc.  
read by Kelly Corrigan
1 hr., 30 mins (2 discs)

This is it, people.  This is the audiobook for People Who Don’t Like (or Don’t Think They Like) Audiobooks.  And for the People Who Never Tried Audiobooks But Want To.  And for those of us, like me, who love audiobooks.

For starters, it’s short.  Like, only two discs short.  I scrutinized this at the library to make sure it a) wasn’t abridged (it isn’t) or missing a CD or two.  It’s neither.  (The hardback version of the book is 89 pages.)

What Lift is, then, is a letter written by Kelly Corrigan to her two young daughters on the eve of a first day of school about what it means to be their mother.

“I don’t know when you’ll read this. Maybe when you’re a teenager? No, probably later, when you’re on the verge of parenthood and it occurs to you for the first time that someone has been loving you for that long. Maybe (let’s hope not) you’ll read it because something’s happened to one of us-my cancer came back or Dad was reading a text going across the Bay Bridge and cars collided-and you want to piece together what it was like before. No matter when and why this comes to your hands, I want to put down on paper how things started with us.”

While listening to this, I thought this would be a great audiobook to listen to with a mother and daughter in the car – like if you were en route to a vacation or on a trip to visit a college. (With it only being 1 and a half hours long, the eye-rolling will barely have stopped by the time the CD does.)

Corrigan writes that she “heard once that the average person barely knows ten stories from childhood and those are based more on photographs and retellings than memory. So even with all the videos we take, the two boxes of snapshots under my desk, and the 1,276 photos in folders on the computer, you’ll be lucky to end up with a dozen stories. You won’t remember how it started with us, the things that I know about you that you don’t even know about yourselves. We won’t come back here. ….

You’ll remember middle school and high school, but you’ll have changed by then. You changing will make me change. That means you won’t ever know me as I am right now-the mother I am tonight and tomorrow, the mother I’ve been for the last eight years, every bath and book and birthday party, gone. It won’t hit you that you’re missing this chapter of our story until you see me push your child on a swing or untangle his jump rope or wave a bee away from his head and think. Is this what she was like with me?”

In Lift, Corrigan writes of the heart-stopping experience of her daughter Claire contracting viral meningitis.  You can hear her voice crack slightly when recalling a young teenage relative, Aaron, killed in a car accident and the emotion that such an event conjures up when relating to her own children. She starts at the beginning, with her gratitude of not having to go through infertility issues like many of her friends. “Dad and I were lucky, if lucky is a big enough word for it. Another way of putting it is that we were spared years of torment. Here’s a third way of saying it: I’ve had cancer twice and if I had to pick one fate for you, cancer or fertility problems, I’d pick cancer.”

(Gah! I nearly slammed on my brakes when I heard that. I mean, I’ve had infertility. Oh, yes indeedy, I have. Never knock wood had cancer. Not quite sure which of those two evils I’d pick there, much less as fates for my kids. Whuh.)

I also need to add that there are five songs by musician Mike Errico included throughout the narration of the book. Now, some people are turned off by music in audiobooks and I am usually one of them, but I really enjoyed these songs. I wasn’t familiar with Mr. Errico’s music before listening to this but I can see myself listening to more. I especially liked “Someday,” “When She Walks By,” and “Count to Ten,” and the lyrics complement the book nicely, which makes sense because Kelly Corrigan personally selected them for the audiobook. Don’t let the inclusion of music be a deterrent to your decision whether to give this a try.

I’ve read a lot of parenting memoirs and articles, and a lot of them are a bit treacly for my taste.  I’ve said before on this blog that I don’t think I am a typical mom. While I love my children and always have and will, I am not one who dives headfirst into this mothering gig, volunteering for every classroom activity, arranging one playdate after another, gleefully creating glitter-laden crafts. Nuh-uh, not me.  Like Kelly Corrigan, I am that mom whose automatic response to everything is “no” and who oftentimes wants to say “yes.”

Lift isn’t a saccharine parenting/mommy memoir, but it is definitely a feel-good book. It’s … well, uplifting. For me, there’s something about this memoir that has the ability to give one a lift, to see someone else who is admittedly not perfect and who has gone through difficult struggles and who is undoubtedly, wholeheatedly appreciative of her children.  I know there are other similar “letters-to-my-children” types of books that attempt to do this, but for me, this one particularly resonated for some reason.

Maybe it has to do with what I’d imagine inspired the title.

Corrigan writes that she was talking with a close friend, an avid hang-gliding enthusiast.  He explains that in hang-gliding, you have to go through turbulance in order to gain the lift you need to soar higher.

I just love that image, that metaphor. It captures so much of our experience as parents to Betty and Boo. If you too have been struck by or reflected on “the pace and vulnerability in raising children,” perhaps this book or audio might be for you too.

Here’s a great video of Kelly Corrigan reading Lift to her daughters, Georgia and Claire, and talking a bit about the book.

Mike Errico’s website is here and YouTube links to the music that is included on Lift are here:

Count to Ten: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mMammSzLQQ
Skimming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm57EyGzfqM
Someday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEDTGzdCzV0
Ever Since: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8b9f83Ek14
When She Walks By: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3hU0rD-gms

And here’s What Other Bloggers Thought:

Book Club Girl
Booking Mama
Chick with Books
Lesa’s Book Critiques

 

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