Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Nancy McCabe

Nancy McCabe is the author of four memoirs about a range of topics: adoption and heritage; violence against women, memory, and creativity; travel, childhood, reading, and children’s literature.

McCabe’s most recent book is From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read voraciously, and usually have several books going at the same time, usually at least one literary novel, one “fun” novel, one children’s or young adult book, one nonfiction book, sometimes poetry as well. As I started compiling a list of what I’m reading right now, I began to see a common theme: all have something to do with keeping classic books relevant to current readers. Here are some of the books that I’m currently in the middle of:

A Fortunate Age, by Joanna Smith Rakoff: This is a fat, old-fashioned kind of novel that my friend Sara gave me for my birthday. It reminds us both of the beginning of our friendship, thirty years ago, when we met in graduate school at the University of Arkansas. When we were brain dead from required reading, we’d go to the Dickson Street Book Shop and buy fun novels with a point of view that rotated between four different characters—what we came to call “four women” novels. We continued to exchange these books throughout our twenties. Like those books, A Fortunate Age follows the stories of four women who met in college. This is both “literary” and “fun,” a great combination. Not mindless, just a pleasure, with compelling characters and beautiful writing. And it’s a tribute to Mary McCarthy’s The Group, which was published in 1963 and established the “Four Women” genre, which has its roots in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan. This was a birthday gift from my daughter Sophie. A few years ago, we both reread The Great Gatsby and went to see the Baz Luhrmann movie, which we didn’t feel quite captured the spirit of the book. I also am a big fan of Maureen Corrigan’s reading memoir Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading, which was one of my inspirations to write my own reading memoir. So We Read On is both informative and engaging. I don’t know that I would have picked up this book if it were by anyone else; I didn’t think I had a particular interest in Fitzgerald. But Corrigan draws me so completely into his world and writing process, on a recent visit to the DC area I felt compelled to go to Rockville, MD to find his grave.

Home for the Holidays by Heather Vogel Frederick. While Rakoff updates The Group and Corrigan refreshes my interest in The Great Gatsby, Frederick’s middle-grade mother/daughter book club series reminds us why classics endure and that they continue to be relevant to young readers. And the books in the series revolve around four girls—another take on the four-women novel? In Home for the Holidays, these girls are encountering Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series for the first time. This was a favorite series from my childhood, and these books deserve to be way better known than they are. Through great plotting and characterization, Frederick creates a story that is a joy in its own right. The Betsy-Tacy references are a fun dimension to the book as well, and give me hope that Frederick will lead young readers back to Lovelace’s delightful novels.
Visit Nancy McCabe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue