Corrigan keeps them laughing with tales of Mom
For her readers, Kelly Corrigan's appeal centers on how much they identify with her through her work. Around 150 fans got the chance to hear the popular author up close and personal Feb. 12 at a fundraiser for the Community Fund of Darien at the Country Club of Darien.
Corrigan proved more identifiable than ever. The author of "The Middle Place" and "Lift" had the crowd in both hysterics and silent appreciation with selections from her latest book, "Glitter and Glue," a memoir about her evolution of feelings about her mother from childhood through when she had a family of her own.
The title, she said, was based on a comment her mother made, wherein she described Corrigan's father as glitter, while she herself was the glue.
"Do you watch `Downton Abbey?' " Corrigan asked, referring to the popular TV series. "Start with Maggie Smith. Even my mom recognizes there are similarities."
"She is sure of herself," she said. "She can be acerbic. She knows her mind. She can be judgmental. She can be a teensy bit cold or aloof, and many, many, many of my friends were afraid of her."
Corrigan said her mother had what one friend described as a BRF, "a bitchy resting face ... You know what I'm talking about," she said, explaining how in its relaxed state her mother's face has a disturbing visage.
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"I left my childhood feeling like I was my father's daughter and I really didn't have anything in common with her," Corrigan said, recounting the journey from growing up in Philadelphia, attending the University of Virginia in Richmond and taking to traveling with a friend.
"That was always the ultimate goal starting in seventh grade," she said of traveling. "That was going to give me the fodder for being a writer."
Ironically, she pointed out, all her books to date focus on family life.
"I think that's because it's really, truly interesting to me -- the people who are surviving and thriving inside a family," she said, calling those who are able to create a solid family the coolest people.
"I think her voice is really true and relatable to women," Cobie Graber of New Canaan, who came with her book club to hear the speaker, said.
"She's the type of author that grabs you from the first chapter," Shiva Sarram of New Canaan, another book club member, said. "She tugs at your heart."
Marla Chandler of Darien, who helped organize the event, added, "Today we're all lucky enough to get an up-close and intimate experience with an author I believe truly gets us. She understands the daughters we were and the mothers we have become."
Ironically, Corrigan found her traveling limited, and it wasn't long before she became a nanny to two children. "I found that my mom was on my mind in a way that she never was before," she recalled.
When Corrigan finally returned home, which is where the first half of her new book ends, "the usual cycle of irritation and disappointment" began anew. The second half of the book, however, focuses on the experience of her having her own daughters, and how this helped teach her acceptance and appreciation of her mom.
"I've been trying to change my mother since the day I came into being as a young adult," she said. "I actually understand for the very first time maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I don't know what's right for her."
In telling a story how her mother chewed on some question Corrigan brought to her for a remarkable period of time -- far more than anyone else would, Corrigan said, "I don't think anyone on Earth cares as much about me as she does."
"Nobody is carrying me and my stuff the way that she is," she said.
Corrigan read some passages from the new book that had the room in stitches, including a line she shared with her husband, Edward, about how she "was a show dog, but now -- two puppies later -- I'm an ungroomed bitch that barks at flies."
She was also pleased when a number of people in the room knew references she made to the films "Animal House" and "Spinal Tap."
"Rock on, Darien," she said. "We really would be friends. I could move here tomorrow and I would be so happy."
Despite the subtle lambasting her memoir gives her mother for her various personality quirks and qualities, Corrigan said, "She thinks this is the best book by far. She really does and she's so funny about it because she doesn't even see what's amusing about that."
Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.