I am a sucker for a free book. A couple years ago, Audible gave away a the title essay of this book as a Christmas present to its members. That was the first time I had read anything by Ann Patchett. You can read that original review on Bookwi.se. Since then I have been interested in Patchett’s writing. I loved Bel Canto and I have been wanting to pick this complete volume up for a while.
Like most of my recent reading, I listened to the audiobook, with Patchett narrating.
Patchett starts the book with an introduction about how as a young novelist, she had to make a living. She tried a variety of jobs, which left her too tired to write, and a then teaching, which left her creatively drained. So she became a freelance essayist for a variety of magazines, starting with 17 and working her way up to the New York Times.
The introduction and several very good essays about advice for writers or her writing life, or the state of books that lead to her becoming co-owner of an independent bookstore were probably my favorite, in spite of the fact that I have never considered myself a writer nor do I aspire to become one in the future. But I am interested in the creative process and Patchett is unabashed in her advice and not afraid to talk about the areas that she thinks she has done well or done poorly.
There were several essays that were primarily about relationships, one is the title essay, which I wrote about before, but it well worth reading. Two other essays were about caring for her grandmother over a long decline and the difficulty and joy of that relationship and then a fairly similar essay about a nun who was an elementary school teachers of hers but whom she became acquainted with later as an adult.
Others relationship oriented essays were about getting her dog and then the death of the same dog years later and the life and death of her best friend, and how the book about that friendship was very negatively received when it was chosen as Freshman reading at Clemson University. Relationships, of a variety of sorts are important here and well written about. I think too often relationships are limited to romantic ones in the modern world, but not by Patchett.
What I like about Patchett is her great use of language and imagery. She is unafraid to reveal herself in these essays, although they are not all about her. These are essays that are about more than just ‘the news’ or memoir, or experiences, although some of them include that. These are mostly about the variety of life.
It is a collection well worth reading, especially if you are interested in writing or creativity in general.
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