My head is so heavy I could fall asleep. That’s how much I’m avoiding writing the essay I’ve decided I should write about beauty and culture. Yeah, I know, sounds deadly in those terms. My head is so heavy because I just read a book as beautiful and full as a rain storm. You know, the really drenching rain storms they have back East. Whirling over, cracking open the sky, drowning us and then moving on. Possibly even having the audacity to leave a glare of sunlight in its wake. That’s how great Ann Patchett’s book Truth & Beauty is.
The book is about Patchett’s friendship with Lucy Grealy. Both writers, both in love with words and each other. The sustaining, forever, reason-to-live kind of friendship it’s easier to write about if your “F” key doesn’t keep sticking. It’s also easier if you’re Ann Patchett, not only because it’s her friendship, but because she’s a brilliant writer. I have decided that if I can’t be Ann Patchett, then I have to meet her. And if I can’t bring myself to leave my family to stalk a famous writer, then I will probably start using my middle name in trying to publish. Yes, my middle name is Ann. My sister Kim’s middle name is also Ann, but more on that another day.
There are more Ann’s in literature than Deborah’s. I think switching names could make all the difference. Scott agreed with me, but I think he was just humoring me so he could get back to the music he was listening to.
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Okay, I’m back. Izzy called to me about 10 minutes ago. She’s not bleeding and only seems a little devastated that I’m not making her some pasta. I’ve been a good mother up until now. I did quickly make a bad cup of coffee to fuel what I’m hoping is a healthy tirade about something important.
Back to Ann Patchett. I read her book, Bel Canto: A Novel and swooned. I am now an opera fan. I’ve read a couple of interviews and now, Truth & Beauty. Which means that there at least five other books out there to disappear into, devour and (fingers crossed) weep over. Yes, I love crying over a great read. But I also tear up when the really sincere kids get sent home on So You Think You Can Dance.
Truth & Beauty starts out with the surety of heat in Tennessee in August. It ends with a basic fact of Patchett’s life called into question. Isn’t that always the way? You think you know something, hinge at least a piece of your whole being on this fact and decide to look deeply inside of it. What you discover is that, honestly, you’re not really sure what you’re seeing. It’s a beautiful slide into unknowing and knowing. Knowing? Yes, knowing that a kaleidoscope isn’t mere child’s play. That everyday mirrors, pebbles and beads can spin for fascinatingly endless bits of time creating varying and arbitrary patterns.
This is getting a bit abstract, so a perennial thank you to Jane Hirshfield for providing this compact philosophy–Everything is connected. Everything changes. Pay attention. Whole Foods actually sold a t-shirt a few years back with this saying on it. I snatched one up. I regret that I didn’t buy a case of them.
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I guess I’m feeling a little less woozy. It helps having to think about getting clear sentences down and remembering to give a little extra oomph to the “F” key. But I don’t really want to leave Patchett’s world. My next book will be Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face.
They do book end. I’ll google Grealy’s poetry and see what I can find. That should keep me busy so I can righteously avoid writing that essay. Or working on the new poem that may want a second section in order to give the main girl some salvation. It may sound harsh, but I’m thinking it’s more fitting to just leave her stranded. I realize that the conversation has gone a bit one-sided at this point since none of you have seen this poem. But trust me…I’m pretty sure she’s better off stranded. I’ll be diligent in deciding and not just leave her exiled because I’m too lazy to come up with the sequel.
Ah, the power of the writer. It’s those momentary spikes that make up for the grinding feelings of self-loathing and the certainty that everything you’ve ever written and will write is truly, embarrassingly awful. Well, it’s not quite an equal parsing of roller coaster emotions, but you get the idea.
So get your hands on a copy of Truth & Beauty or any of Ann Patchett’s books (she even has a new one out– State of Wonder). You can order them by clicking on any of the links I’ve inserted or clicking the Powell’s button below. It just couldn’t be easier. I’ve checked out the link–it works!
(Oh look–the sun’s come out.)
More of my favorite reads are listed on the Bookshelf page of the site.