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 2, 1963
Where—Los Angeles, California, USA
Raised—Nashville, Tennessee
Education—B.A., Sarah Lawrence College; M.F.A., University of Iowa
Awards—Guggenheim Fellowship; PEN/Faulkner Award; Orange Prize
Currently—lives in Nashville, Tennessee


Ann Patchett is an American author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is perhaps best known for her 2001 novel, Bel Canto, which won her the Orange Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award and brought her nationwide fame.

Patchett was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray. Her father, Frank Patchett, who died in 2012 and had been long divorced from her mother, served as a Los Angeles police officer for 33 years, and participated in the arrests of both Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan. The story of Patchett's own family is the basis for her 2016 novel, Commonwealth, about the individual lives of a blended family spanning five decades.

Education and career
Patchett attended St. Bernard Academy, a private Catholic school for girls run by the Sisters of Mercy. Following graduation, she attended Sarah Lawrence College and took fiction writing classes with Allan Gurganus, Russell Banks, and Grace Paley. She managed to publish her first story in The Paris Review before she graduated. After college, she went on to the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa

For nine years, Patchett worked at Seventeen magazine, writing primarily non-fiction; the magazine published one of every five articles she wrote. She said that the magazine's editors could be cruel, but she eventually stopped taking criticism personally. She ended her relationship with the magazine following a dispute with one editor, exclaiming, "I’ll never darken your door again!"

In 1990-91, Patchett attended the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It was there she wrote The Patron Saint of Liars, which was published in 1992 (becoming a 1998 TV movie). It was where she also met longtime friend Elizabeth McCracken—whom Patchett refers to as her editor and the only person to read her manuscripts as she is writing.

Although Patchett's second novel Taft won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize in fiction in 1994, her fourth book, Bel Canto, was her breakthrough novel. Published in 2001, it was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and won the PEN/Faulkner Award and Britain's Orange Prize.

In addition to her other novels and memoirs, Patchett has written for publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Oprah Magazine, ELLE, GQ, Gourmet, and Vogue. She is the editor of the 2006 volume of the anthology series The Best American Short Stories.

Personal
Patchett was only six when she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and she lives there still. She is particularly enamored of her beautiful pink brick home on Whitland Avenue where she has lived since 2004 with her husband and dog. When asked by the New York Times where would she go if she could travel anywhere, Patchett responded...

I've done a lot of travel writing, and people like to ask me where I would go if I could go anyplace. My answer is always the same: I would go home. I am away more than I would like, giving talks, selling books, and I never walk through my own front door without thinking: thank-you-thank-you-thank-you.... [Home is] the stable window that opens out into the imagination.

In 2010, when she found that her hometown of Nashville no longer had a good book store, she co-founded Parnassus Books with Karen Hayes; the store opened in November 2011. In 2012, Patchett was on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She is a vegan for "both moral and health reasons."

In an interview, she once told Barnes and Noble that the book that influenced her writing more than any other was 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.

Books
1992 - The Patron Saint of Liars
1994 - Taft
1997 - The Magician's Assistant
2004 - Truth and Beauty: A Friendship
2001 - Bel Canto
2007 - Run
2008 - What Now?
2011 - State of Wonder; The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
2013 - This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage
2016 - Commonwealth
(Author bio adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/5/2016.)



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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