Sunday, December 2, 2012

Author Birthday: Ann Patchett


From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of novelist Ann Patchett (books by this author), born in Los Angeles (1963). She grew up Catholic and went to an all-girls Catholic school in Nashville, where she still lives. She said: "Catholicism really trained me for fiction writing. I think it has to be the greatest religion for a fiction writer because it is so much a tradition of story and parable. I spent my whole childhood on my knees in front of pieces of carved marble, and in my heart I was filling that stone with enormous life. That gets at the essence of storytelling." 
She went to Sarah Lawrence College, where one of her teachers was the short-story writer Grace Paley. She said that Paley would cancel classes and take the students to protests, and that she discouraged any kind of pretension in their writing. Patchett said: "She taught me that writing must not be compartmentalized. You don't step out of the stream of your life to do your work. Work was the life, and who you were as a mother, teacher, friend, citizen, activist, and artist was all the same person. People like to ask me if writing can be taught, and I say yes. I can teach you how to write a better sentence, how to write dialogue, maybe even how to construct a plot. But I can't teach you how to have something to say. 
Patchett's books include Bel Canto (2001), Truth and Beauty (2004), Run (2007), and most recently, State of Wonder (2011).

I discovered Ann Patchett in the late 1990's when the cover of The Magician's Assistant caught my eye. After reading that novel, I returned to the bookstore and purchased her earlier works. Since then, I have read all her fiction plus Truth and Beauty.  The Magician's Assistant (which I have been meaning to reread for years) is still my favorite, with State of Wonder close behind. Bel Canto, probably her most famous work, is my least favorite.

Have you read Ann Patchett?

18 comments:

  1. I have only read "Bel Canto" which I enjoyed. I would love to read more of her books, especially the one you recommend. The excerpt from the Writer's Almanac was very interesting, her thoughts on her religious background and how it informed her growth as a writer are intriguing. I read somewhere that she is opening a book store in her home town. How wonderful. The Writer's Almanac is a treasure!

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    1. Sunday Taylor - I I love my daily dose of The Writer's Almanac and occasionally share the birthday of favorite authors here.

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  2. I liked Run, but I've failed at Bel Canto twice. Which has made me leery of her other books.

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    1. Softdrink - I've enjoyed all of Patchett's books, but never understood the adoration readers have for Bel Canto.

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  3. Love the Grace Paley idea that 'you don't step out of the stream of your life to do the work.' Love Ann Patchett. Bel Canto, State of Wonder and Truth and Beauty are the only ones I've completed. Couldn't get into The Magician's Assistant but if you recommend it I'll go back to it.

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    1. Vintage Reading - I remember The Magician's Assistant as being very different from other books I was reading at the time... also enjoyed The Patron Saint of Liars.

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  4. I have only read Bel Canto but was so impressed I do want to read her other books.

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    1. Harvee - Patchett is such a talented writer!

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  5. I've never read anything by her, but she's an author I've heard others rave about for ages. I must get to her books soon. Joanne

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    1. Seagreen reader - I hope you get a chance to read Ann Patchett in 2013 :-)

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  6. Bel Canto is how I discovered Ann Patchett and it remains one of my all-time favorite books. But I did love The Magician's Assistant, too. I think one of the thinks that I love most about Patchett is that each of her books is utterly unique.

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    1. Lisa - Very true! Many authors seems to have a formula, or return to a particular theme over and over, but Patchett manages to keep her books fresh and different.

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  7. I haven't read her books, though I love her mother's :) and I do mean to try hers one of these days.

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    1. Lisa May - I didn't know her mother was a writer! Now I have another author on my 'to read' list.

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  8. I have a few of her books but have yet to read them!! But I am puttingThe Magician's Assistant om my TBR list because of your words!!

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    1. Staci - I really want to reread The Magician's Assistant. It was the first one of her books I read and I wonder what I would think now that I've read all the others...

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  9. I've only read Truth and Beauty and I loved it - such a beautiful book. I have State of Wonder on the shelves and hope to get to it next year. I do admire her for opening the bookstore in Nashville after all their indie bookstores closed.

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    1. Anbolyn - Truth and Beauty was one of my favorites several years ago. It inspired me to read Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face. I love that she opened her own bookstore, too!

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