A well-organized collection of a beloved, award-winning writer’s nonfiction essays about her personal and literary lives.
Most readers know Patchett (State of Wonder, 2011, etc.) for her richly imaginative fiction. But before she found success as a novelist, she supported herself by writing nonfiction for a diverse variety of magazines, including Seventeen, Mercedes Benz Magazine and Bridal Guide. In this book, Patchett gathers 22 essays published between 1997 and 2012. What she ultimately produces is a text that is part meditation on the writing life and part literary memoir. From an early age, the Los Angeles native knew she wanted to be a writer, but she would be an adult before she realized that, in addition to making art, storytellers “also [had] to make a living.” After stints as a cook, waitress and teacher, she discovered that writing nonfiction could pay her bills. It would only be much later that she understood how writing nonfiction had transformed her into “a workhorse,” abolished her ego and impacted the future readers of her novels in ways she never expected. Patchett also reflects on her literary successes, as well as on the controversy surrounding Truth & Beauty (2004), which explores the emotionally intense relationship she had with fellow Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Lucy Grealy. The personal essays reflect a wide range of experiences. In one, she reflects on the rocky childhood that led her away from LA and on to Nashville. In another, she reflects on her failed first marriage and second successful one. Patchett also shares stories of how she learned to appreciate opera, qualified for the LA police academy and unexpectedly became part owner of an independent bookstore. Readable and candid, Patchett’s collection is a joyful celebration of life, love and the written word.
Wise, humane and always insightful.