Ann’s Blog

Notes from Ann: Philip Roth

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Among his many honors, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize and was recognized with the National Humanities Medal, The American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal in Fiction, and the National Medal of Arts. He won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award (both twice), as well as the PEN/Faulkner Award (three times). He died yesterday, May 22, 2018, at the age of 85.

I’m sitting in the airport, feeling terrible about Philip Roth’s death. I’ve been a devoted Roth reader since I was in high school, bought and read each of his books as they were published. I thrilled to them, learned from them, and loved them. The very worst Roth novel was still better than anything published in a given year. When I was 24 I got in terrible trouble in the English department where I was teaching for giving Portnoy’s Complaint to a college freshman. He loved it. His mother did not. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: The Basic Self

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Let’s imagine that for each of us there is a basic self and an extraneous self. The basic self is simply who you are, the boiled down version of you, very simple, possibly naked. Say the basic self is represented by your fingerprints, your height, your DNA. The extraneous self is composed of all the optional parts of our personality, the things we love and hate, the things we’re attracted to, the things we try on and cast away. It’s still us, it’s just the more fluid version of us. The basic self is you in the bed. The extraneous self is the bed, the mattress, the mattress pad, the fitted sheets, the top sheet, the light summer blanket, the pillows, the pillowcases, the pajamas. You get the picture. Read the rest of this entry »

Cover Reveal! Nashville: Scenes from the New American South

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Today’s post from Ann Patchett includes your first look at her new book with photographer Heidi Ross (right), featuring an introduction by Jon Meacham (left).

I’d worked with Liz Sullivan before. She’s an executive editor at Harper Collins, the person who handles the art books. Four years ago when I wanted to edit a collection of essays based around the photography of my friend Melissa Ann Pinney, I went to Liz. She was tough and exacting and in possession of a flawless sense of design. What we wound up with is TWO, a truly gorgeous piece of work. After we were finished, Liz and I stayed friends. These days we mostly talk about our dogs, though sometimes the conversation veers towards chocolate. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Springtime, Death

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People like to know how writers become writers, and in my case a big piece of the credit goes to my stepfather, Mike Glasscock, who died on February 17, 2018. He was a famous surgeon and a pioneer in the field of neuro-otology. He had a big life, traveled the world, had three wives and four children. His achievements were spectacular, as were his mistakes. Mike came into my life when I was five, and even though he and my mother parted ways when I was 24, he and I stayed close until the end. Mike’s belief in me was epic. When I was a little kid, and I mean little, eight or nine, he would say, “Someday I’m going to open up a book and it’s going to say, ‘for Mike Glasscock.’” And he was right. I dedicated Commonwealth to him. The book was in large part based on him and the lives of the six children he and my mother brought together. The portrait I painted wasn’t always flattering, but Mike said he loved it. He was proud of me, and his constant encouragement and support transcended the madness of family life. Sometimes things work out. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Nickels

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I’m writing a novel. It’s going okay. I wrote a chunk of it over the summer, then had to leave it because I was traveling around giving talks. When I came back to the book after Christmas, and then again after the flu, I no longer liked what I’d written. Last summer I thought I had things figured out, but I was wrong. A couple of weeks ago I threw it all away and started again. This is the kind of thing that felt like the end of the world when I was 26, but at 54 feels like, Oh, now I’m at that part where I realize all the previously completed work is trash and must be thrown away. Okay. I remember when I realized the first 30 pages of Bel Canto were unsalvageable dreck. I sat at the kitchen table and wept. Those pages had taken eight months to write (because true dreck is composed very slowly). Someone walking into the kitchen at that moment might have thought something very bad had happened to me, and I would have had to explain that I was learning a lesson and it was hard, that’s all. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: Start Barking

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January is a month for diet books, exercise manuals and a host of self-improvement programs. The holiday cookies have been eaten, the Champagne bottles drained, and here we are, lumpy and disappointed in ourselves, filled with the desire to do better in the coming year. But what if we upped our game, worried less about our bodies and more about our souls? Given the season, not to mention the current political climate, I thought this would be a good moment to recommend some books that could help quiet the mind, address priorities, and lead us to be better, kinder, more helpful people. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Ann: The First Editions Club, Where We Just Keep on Winning

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Like the rest of you, I’m sorting through an onslaught of holiday catalogs these days, and what seems especially popular now is any gift that can keep on giving. Sure, you can order up 12 months of boxed fruit, but you can also get the pastry of the month, or pajamas of the month, or licorice, or floral arrangements. Pretty much anything you wanted to give to someone once you can now give to that person 12 times. Read the rest of this entry »