Some­times you re­ally can’t go home again

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - KIM CUR­TIS

In the in­tro­duc­tion of her new col­lec­tion of es­says, This Is the Story of a Happy Mar­riage, Ann Patch­ett de­clares her­self a writer of nov­els. She ex­plains that writ­ing non-fic­tion es­says for mag­a­zines rang­ing from Seven­teen to Gourmet to The New York Times Mag­a­zine served as a nec­es­sary evil in­tended to pay her bills. She said “yes” to ev­ery­thing, “no” to noth­ing, and would write the re­quired num­ber of words on ab­so­lutely any­thing.

So why, then, did Patch­ett pick 22 of her mag­a­zine pieces and put them in a book? It’s like a long-dis­tance run­ner who de­cides to em­brace sprint­ing. A writer may be a writer, but when one is an award-win­ning, best­selling au­thor, the choice is more than a bit be­wil­der­ing.

Patch­ett does of­fer cred­i­ble bits of wis­dom for as­pir­ing writ­ers: don’t go into debt for a mas­ter’s de­gree or write your book in chrono­log­i­cal or­der. She also pro­vides re­flec­tions on her par­ents’ di­vorce and her love of dogs — all in­ter­est­ing slice-oflife pieces. But there’s not much here for read­ers to sink their teeth into.

The book’s ti­tle es­say is, by far, the book’s strong­est, as Patch­ett re­veals her­self, her fears and ex­pec­ta­tions about life and love and her un­will­ing­ness to fail at mar­riage twice.

“Di­vorce is the his­tory les­son, that thing that must be re­mem­bered in or­der not to be re­peated. Di­vorce is the rock upon which this church is built,” she writes, ex­plain­ing her cur­rent, suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship.

Patch­ett says her break­out novel, Bel Canto, en­abled her to buy a house in 2001. It pro­vided her with the free­dom to quit her day job, but she loved it and felt bad leav­ing mag­a­zine writ­ing be­hind. Even the most diehard Patch­ett fans will re­as­sure her: that’s just fine.

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