Wednesday, January 15, 2014

“Art stands on the shoulders of craft…”

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is a writer I’ve come late to. Everyone raved about Bel Canto, but opera-lover that I am, have I read it yet? Nope. Still, her most recent novel, State of Wonder, made my annual top 10 list, and seeing her speak inspired a blog post entitled, “No one ever told me Ann Patchett was so charismatic.” So, even though I read relatively little non-fiction, I was well-primed for this collection of essays, penned over the course of many years. Allow me to cut to the chase and tell you that I loved this book from start to finish.

After a brief introduction meditating on the differences in writing fiction and non-fiction, Patchett launches into writings on craft. And I thought to myself, I could read her thoughts on this subject all day! At one point, she writes, “If you’ve read this far, you must be pretty interested in writing yourself.” On the contrary, I’m the furthest thing from a writer and I was utterly captivated. And while I don’t write, there were plenty of underlined quotes to share with writing friends.

Ms. Patchett truly charmed me in these pages. I found her reflections on her most influential teachers
both generous and winning. Likewise, I was utterly enchanted by her essay on attending the Met’s simulcast at the local multiplex. Ms. Patchett writes on subjects that resonate with me—her love of her dog; ups and downs with her husband; on becoming an independent bookseller, and the importance of bookstores in our communities; on her relationship with her elderly grandmother. An unexpected, but terrific, story recounts her efforts to get into the LAPD Police Academy. There’s great diversity in the collection.

Ms. Patchett, as always, writes beautifully. And as so much of the writing is frankly autobiographical, her voice and personality come shining through in each entry. They paint the portrait of an artist whose work—whether fiction or non-fiction—I intend to get to know better. And they portray an interesting and accomplished woman with whom it was a true pleasure to spend time.


  1. I've read just one book by Patchett, but I loved it (State of Wonder). This memoir about her marriage didn't sound so interesting to me. But now your saying it's about writing and about her life in general. That does sound good!

  2. Well written collection of essays from Ann Patchett. You may have read her books and not her magazine pieces or vice versa. This book brings together some of the rich and heartfelt magazine pieces from this author.

  3. A friend recommended this book to me after I said I had just finished Commonwealth and enjoyed it. I am not sure how I came to read it. I wasn't familiar with the author or her works.

    Thank goodness for my friend. I absolutely loved this book. I am sad it is over. I can't wait to explore her other books. I want to make a pilgrimage to her bookstore!