90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Novelist Ann Patchett’s Real Life Out In The Real World

PEN/Faulkner prize-winning author Ann Patchett on the art of telling the truth about love, friendship, work and art.


Award-winning, best selling novelist and author Ann Patchett. (Harper)

Novelist Ann Patchett is celebrated for her “sweep you away” stories in rain forest and revolution.  Fiction in “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder” and more, that has won her crowds of devoted readers.  But there’s more to the story, of course.  Of a life in non-fiction that started out at Seventeen Magazine and climbed.  Of just plain life — loves and dogs and waitressing and a bookstore, of all things, now, in Nashville.  And beneath it all, the work.  The writing life.  And what it took win.  Up next On Point:  Ann Patchett on love, truth, writing, and just doing it.

– Tom Ashbrook


Ann Patchett, novelist, journalist and book store owner. Winner of the PEN/Faulker Award, author of “This Is the Story of A Happy Marriage,” “Bel Canto,” “State Of Wonder,” and many more.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Ann Patchett: By the Book — “After I read ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ I became so obsessed with pigs that my stepfather got me one for my ninth birthday. It was because of that pig that I became a vegetarian. That’s impact.”

Nashville Scene: Ann Patchett talks about how opening a bookstore led to her new essay collection – “Novelist Ann Patchett energetically resists all efforts to identify autobiographical elements in her fiction, but she has never been averse to personal writing in general: In fact, as she explains in her new book, ‘This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage,’ she got her start as a writer by publishing essays and features in national magazines. It’s one thing to write personally for a publication that will end up in the recycle bin almost immediately, and something entirely different to publish an autobiographical book, however, and Patchett has always preferred to issue her life’s story in incomplete, widely scattered episodes.”

Salon: Ann Patchett on her moment of ‘Girls’ fame: ‘I am so far out of it!’ – “‘It has been such an awesome conference,’ says Becky Ann Baker’s character, a prim middle-aged, upper-middle-class woman. ‘I never thought I’d meet so many other women who feel the same way I do about Ann Patchett.’ The joke here, perhaps, is that Patchett is the sort of tasteful, excellent, high-mid-brow author for whom women like Hannah’s mother would, near-universally, feel a strong affinity.”

Read An Excerpt From “This Is A Happy Marriage” By Ann Patchett

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Unterthurn

    Read “Bel Canto” at least twice and have recommended it many times others.

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    Being a man I am naturally reluctant to accept, directions from a woman. However in this case I will, somewhat reluctantly, allow you to give me directions to the “Real World”. You see, I have become somewhat disenchanted with this nightmarish reproduction that I have been forced to live in. Please forward the proper coordinates to me so that I may “beam myself in”.

    Many Thanks,

    William James from Missouri

  • Dana Ortegón

    I’m doomed. I always joke with my partner that we may as well live in different time zones. I go to bed at 10 and wake up at 6. He goes to bed at 1:00 am and wakes up at 9:00. From what you say, this is a recipe for disaster.

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    Ms. Patchett, You have a wonderful voice. My comment has no substance just truth.

  • hennorama

    One of the best questions one can ask regarding lifestyle compatibility is “What is your ideal Sunday like?”

    Potential conflicts immediately become apparent:

    Golf vs. church
    Hiking vs. watching sports
    Lying in bed reading the paper vs. going to the gym


  • GarretWoodward

    As a writer and journalist, I’m trying to find a happy medium between articles and ultimately pursuing my narrative nonfiction dreams. How did you find your way and keep going? What are your writing habits and advice for writers?

    • ToyYoda

      I have this book. I read an entry every now and then.


      It might be accurate, but I’m not sure about everything that’s in it. For instance, one person I am interested in is Frederic Chopin. I want to know how his composing habits are like. The entry in the book for it, comes from Georges Sands, Chopin’s lover. Georges Sands worshipped the guy.

      I suspect that her description of Chopin’s composing habits is embellished to the point of lying. She claims that Chopin’s ideas came -more or less- finished, somewhat like Mozart (which is myth too).

      There are lots of other stories where Chopin frustrated his publishers by re-editing his compositions at the last second, and his descriptions from his students who said he would edit his own works during a lesson. So it seems to me the Chopin was more like Beethoven; always fretting, and re-editing.

      Still the book has some value. I’m sure not all the entries are so embellished because some of the entries are based off biographical accounts. (But of course those can be exaggerated too.)

      • HonestDebate1

        I am also a big fan of Chopin as well as his mentor (of sorts) Franz Liszt. Whatever his methods, the results were poetic, if that term can be applied to song. It seems to me in Chopin’s case it can. His Nocturne in Eb and Prelude in Em are two of my favorite examples of that poetic beauty.

  • ToyYoda

    Marriage? How outdated. Transcend your biological roots. I’m 40, I dated once, I never married. It’s such a messy affair. Living alone is enjoyable and doesn’t mean your lonely. You should get use to it aswell, because, remember, you die alone.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      Are you a trans-humanist?

      • ToyYoda

        I had to look up the term. But after scanning the wiki article. I agree with most of those sentiments. And, well, since I’ve done robotics and some of augmented reality stuff, I would consider myself a practitioner.

        I aspire to be like the Renaissance Artists, whom I admired since I was a kid; Contribute to humanity by Devoting yourself to the higher arts, and the higher thoughts, and disdain sex and dating. So for me that would be mathematics, music (piano), and sketching.

        • HonestDebate1

          That’s interesting and I think it’s great you are happy. I’ve always felt to be happy one needs 3 things: someone to love, something to look forward to and something to do. But that’s me.

          Do you mind telling me if you are male or female? Just curious.

          • ToyYoda

            From my experience, your view is quite common. I think people assume it. Perhaps by chance, I was able to spot it as an assumption when I was young and was able to examine it, and so had a choice to whether to embrace it or not; most get adopt it via unconscious dogma.

            My activities make me happy, but I understand that they are conditional. Conditional meaning that I might not be able to do any of it anymore. I’m happy unconditionally, and then I find activities that express that. Most make the mistake of doing the reverse; activities, accomplishments, and people make one happy. It’s a subtle but transcendental point.

            Anyways, getting off topic.

            I’m male. :)

          • HonestDebate1

            Thanks Toyoda. I make no judgements, when you say you’re happy unconditionally that tells me you have arrived. What else matters?

  • Holly Muscolino

    I just finished reading Truth & Beauty last night! Your relationship with Lucy was so intense – much more intense than most marriages appear to be. Can you talk about the love between girlfriends? BTW, love your books!

  • LizADK

    I was taught by my mother the concept of “serial monogomy”. In other words, we as mammels have a cycles that last approximately 4 years (figure the time it takes to fall in love, have a baby, get the baby to a point where they are walking and have some beginnings of independence). So, our culture of life-long partners is fairly unnatural. She taught me that the trick is, if you can, to keep falling in love with your partner.

  • ToyYoda

    Yes! books! I love them. Keep up the good fight, and keep the shop open.

    Please, also start a dvd rental store too. I use to love going in and physically browsing the different aisles, just as I do when I go to book stores.

  • Victor Sacramento Monteiro

    Hello Tom, I’m a Capeverdean living in US ( R.I. ) for 26 years and a fan of this great program of yours.
    I met my wife when I was 16 and she was 20; two years later we got married and 10 months later we had a beautiful baby girl, Jennifer. We’ve been toghether for 31 years and married for 29. I was 18 and my spouse Ana was 22 years old and a lot of people didn’t believe in our marriage due to the fact that I was young but I proved them wrong; my wife and I are happily married and we’ll be celebrating our 29th anniversary shortly. We just became grand-parents to a beautiful baby boy Liam and it seems like he came to seal our happiness even more.
    In this day and age every time you turn around someone that we know is getting divorced and it makes me feel sad and proud at the same time and I use our relationship as an example to my daughter that just got married last year and I hope she follows our foot print.
    Keep bringing interesting and smart people to your show.

    Victor Sacramento Monteiro

  • 228929292AABBB

    The interesting thing about a radio interview is there’s the subject, and then there’s the guest. I wouldn’t have thought to be very keen on this show until I started listening and just found Ms. Patchett to be a lot of fun to hear from. Good show, she’s a rewarding guest to have on.

  • the anti-Emily

    Marriages like yours are the exception, rather than the norm, especially with the younger generations where I feel like assortative mating is more popular. In your generation, shotguns weddings following pregnancy may have been popular because that’s how things may have been done but now–the urban professional with his/her high-skill white collar job wants someone who is just like them. ” Successful marriages are about accepting and embracing the differences between two people, not wanting a clone of who we are.” Most people are incapable of accepting differences–because differences lead to non-connection.

  • Regular_Listener

    Perhaps I shouldn’t speak up, since I have not read any of Ms. Patchett’s books, and I believe that it is not a great idea to weigh in on a writer without having read their stuff – so I’ll keep my comments brief. And I do love the fact that she owns a bookstore. But I just get the feeling that we are not getting the whole story here. She seems to be putting a happy face on things which are not all that uplifting on careful examination. Perhaps we all do that, myself included.

Jul 28, 2014
This June 4, 2014 photo shows a Walgreens retail store in Boston. Walgreen Co. _ which bills itself as “America’s premier pharmacy” _ is among many companies considering combining operations with foreign businesses to trim their tax bills. (AP)

American companies bailing out on America. They call it inversion. Is it desertion?

Jul 28, 2014
U.S. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker watches as wounded American soldiers arrive at an American hospital near the front during World War I. (AP Photo)

Marking the one hundredth anniversary of the start of World War One. We’ll look at lessons learned and our uneasy peace right now.

Jul 25, 2014
Guest Renee McLeod of Somerville, MA's Petsi pies shows off her wares. (Robin Lubbock / WBUR)

There is nothing more American than a piece of pie. We taste and talk pies.

Jul 25, 2014
Pallbearers carry a coffin out of a military transport plane during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Eindhoven, Netherlands, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP)

Secretary of State Kerry to Israel. Obamacare back in the courts. Mourning as remains of Malaysia Flight 17 victims come home. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: July 25, 2014
Friday, Jul 25, 2014

Why the key to web victory is often taking a break and looking around, and more pie for your viewing (not eating) pleasure.

More »
The Art Of The American Pie: Recipes
Friday, Jul 25, 2014

In the odd chance that our pie hour this week made you hungry — how could it not, right? — we asked our piemaking guests for some of their favorite pie recipes. Enjoy!

More »
Hillary Clinton: ‘The [Russian] Reset Worked’
Thursday, Jul 24, 2014

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took time out of her global book tour to talk to us about Russia, the press and the global crises shaking the administration she left two years ago.

More »