This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Patchett)

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage 
Ann Patchett, 2013
HarperCollins
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062236685



Summary
A resonant portrait of a life in this collection of writings on love, friendship, work, and art.

The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living.

So begins This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, an examination of the things Ann Patchett is fully committed to—the art and craft of writing, the depths of friendship, an elderly dog, and one spectacular nun. Writing nonfiction, which started off as a means of keeping her insufficiently lucrative fiction afloat, evolved over time to be its own kind of art, the art of telling the truth as opposed to the art of making things up. Bringing her narrative gifts to bear on her own life, Patchett uses insight and compassion to turn very personal experiences into stories that will resonate with every reader.

These essays twine to create both a portrait of life and a philosophy of life. Obstacles that at first appear insurmountable—scaling a six-foot wall in order to join the Los Angeles Police Department, opening an independent bookstore, and sitting down to write a novel—are eventually mastered with quiet tenacity and a sheer force of will. The actual happy marriage, which was the one thing she felt she wasn't capable of, ultimately proves to be a metaphor as well as a fact: Patchett has devoted her life to the people and ideals she loves the most.

An irresistible blend of literature and memoir, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a unique examination of the heart, mind, and soul of one of our most revered and gifted writers.. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—December 02, 1963
Where—Los Angeles, California
Education—B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A.,
   University of Iowa, 1987
Awards—Guggenheim Fellowship, 1995; PEN/Faulkner
   Award, 2002; Orange Prize, 2002
Currently—Nashville, Tennessee


Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles but raised in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, she studied with such notable authors as Russell Banks and Grace Paley before getting her first short works published. She labored long and hard in the trenches of Seventeen magazine (where her talents went largely unrecognized), before striking gold with her ambitious first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, which was named a New York Times Notable Book of 1992 and subsequently made into a major motion picture.

Since her auspicious debut, Patchett has crafted a handful of elegant novels, garnering several accolades and awards along the way. But her real breakthrough occurred with 2001's Bel Canto, a taut, psychological thriller set in the claustrophobic confines of an embassy under siege in South America. Winning both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize, Bel Canto catapulted Patchett into the ranks of bestselling authors.

As if to prove her versatility, Patchett departed from fiction for 2004's Truth & Beauty, the heartbreaking account of her longstanding, difficult friendship with the late Lucy Grealy, a gifted writer whose disfigurement from cancer precipitated a tragic descent into addiction and death. This memoir won several literary awards and appeared on many end-of-year best books lists. Her novel, Run, follwed in 2007.

Success breeds success; and with each book, Patchett's reputation grows. Perhaps the secret to her popularity has been captured best by Patchett's friend, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. "She is a genius of the human condition," he says. "I can't think of many other writers, ever, who get anywhere near her ability to comprehend the vastness and diversity of humanity, and to articulate our deepest heart."

Extras
From a 2004 Barnes and Noble interview:

• In 1997, The Patron Saint of Liars was adapted into a TV movie, and Patchett also helped to write the screenplay for Taft, which was optioned by actor Morgan Freeman for a feature film.

• Patchett knew absolutely nothing about opera before writing Bel Canto; she began her research with Fred Plotkin's book Opera 101.

• She has never had a television.... she brushes her dog's teeth every morning.... After she received a pig for her ninth birthday, she hasn't eaten red meat since.

• When asked what book most influenced her life as a writer, here is her response: Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow. "I think I read it in the tenth grade. My mother was reading it. It was the first truly adult literary novel I had read outside of school, and I read it probably half a dozen times. I found Bellow's directness very moving. The book seemed so intelligent and unpretentious. I wanted to write like that book."  (Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
A collection of 22 essays...offer generous glimpses of [Patchett's] rural, divorced Catholic, Tennessee background and winding but determined route to becoming a writer. Writing nonfiction...was her bread and butter in the early days, and she has an authoritative, straightforward voice in exploring some of the milestones of her life.... Early on, her writing teacher Russell Banks had warned Patchett of being too “polished” and “just getting by,” urging her to take risks, and certainly many of these selections reveal a candid, evolved self-reflection.
Publishers Weekly


[A]n eclectic group [of essays] covering a wide range of events on the topic of commitment, from training to get into the Los Angeles Police Department academy to Patchett's career as an author.... In sharing her struggles as a writer and creating the life she wanted for herself, Patchett offers words that gently advise without imposing. Her experiences, large and small, create a connection with the reader in prose that is thoughtful, warm, and encouraging. —Catherine Gilmore, MLS, Portland, OR
Library Journal


A well-organized collection of a beloved, award-winning writer's nonfiction essays about her personal and literary lives.... What she ultimately produces is a text that is part meditation on the writing life and part literary memoir.... Readable and candid, Patchett's collection is a joyful celebration of life, love and the written word. Wise, humane and always insightful.
Kirkus Reviews



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