Truth and Beauty: A Friendship

Truth and Beauty: A Friendship

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by Ann Patchett
     
 

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What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren't bound to by blood? What happens when the person you promise to love and to honor for the rest of your life is not your lover, but your best friend? In Truth & Beauty, her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Ann Patchett shines a fresh, revealing light on the world

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Overview

What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren't bound to by blood? What happens when the person you promise to love and to honor for the rest of your life is not your lover, but your best friend? In Truth & Beauty, her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Ann Patchett shines a fresh, revealing light on the world of women's friendships and shows us what it means to stand together.

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work was. In her critically acclaimed and hugely successful memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, the years of chemotherapy and radiation, and then the endless reconstructive surgeries. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn't Lucy's life or Ann's life, but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long, cold winters of the Midwest, to surgical wards, to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this book shows us what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving a person we cannot save. It is about loyalty, and about being lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Sun-Times
“Unforgettable...carefully rendered and breathtaking.”
Elle
“{a} loving, clear-sighted portrayal..”
BookPage
“...lyrical, lovely...Patchett has preserved her friend’s talent in this book, and provided more evidence of her own.”
Janet Maslin
The beauty of this book is in the details, and in the anecdotes so colorfully recalled. There is Lucy's blind date with George Stephanopoulos, who answered her personal ad in The New York Review of Books. There is the time the two aspiring authors watched "Glengarry Glen Ross" in horror, wondering what life would be like if they held David Mamet-style jobs. And there is the way Ms. Grealy could move down the street, "everyone waving as if she were gliding past on a rose-covered float." The drive-in bank teller would say hello. Ms. Grealy, however much she loved attention, sighed and told Ms. Patchett: "That's not even my bank."
The New York Times
Jocelyn McClurg
Truth & Beauty (the title comes from a chapter in Grealy's Autobiography) is heartbreaking, funny, disturbing, at times infuriating — just like the odd but endearing Lucy.
USA Today
The New York Times Book Review
Truth & Beauty is a harrowing document, composed in a spare, forthright style very different from the elegant artifice of Patchett's best-known novels...It can be no surprise that the memoir of a friendship that ends in the premature death of a gifted writer does not make for cheerful reading. And yet there is much in Truth & Beauty that is uplifting, a testament to the perennial idealism and optimism of the young.—Joyce Carol Oates
Lisa Zeidner
… this memoir, dedicated to Grealy, is more love letter than autobiography. No reader will doubt the sincerity, or ferocity, of the love.
The Washington Post
The New Yorker
Lucy Grealy attained prominence, in 1994, with “Autobiography of a Face,” a restrained account of acute disfigurement and continual surgery after a childhood tumor required the removal of much of her lower jaw. Grealy died of a heroin overdose in 2002, at the age of thirty-nine, and Patchett’s memoir of her friend, whom she first met in college, reveals a level of anguish that was submerged in Grealy’s book. Patchett sees herself as the hardworking ant to Lucy’s glamorous grasshopper, with her life in New York, countless friends, and a habit of finishing work at the last minute. But Grealy’s tremendous gift for friendship signalled a deep neediness and an inability to be alone that also made it difficult for her to sit down and write. If Patchett’s book doesn’t quite stand on its own, it is a moving companion to Grealy’s.
Publishers Weekly
This memoir of Patchett's friendship with Autobiography of a Face author Lucy Grealy shares many insights into the nature of devotion. One of the best instances of this concerns a fable of ants and grasshoppers. When winter came, the hard-working ant took the fun-loving grasshopper in, each understanding their roles were immutable. It was a symbiotic relationship. Like the grasshopper, Grealy, who died of cancer at age 39 in 2002, was an untethered creature, who liked nothing more than to dance, drink and fling herself into Patchett's arms like a kitten. Patchett (The Patron Saint of Liars; Bel Canto) tells this story chronologically, in bursts of dialogue, memory and snippets of Grealy's letters, moving from the unfolding of their deep connection in graduate school and into the more turbulent waters beyond. Patchett describes her attempts to be a writer, while Grealy endured a continuous round of operations as a result of her cancer. Later, when adulthood brought success, but also heartbreak and drug addiction, the duo continued to be intertwined, even though their link sometimes seemed to fray. This gorgeously written chronicle unfolds as an example of how friendships can contain more passion and affection than any in the romantic realm. And although Patchett unflinchingly describes the difficulties she and Grealy faced in the years after grad school, she never loses the feeling she had the first time Grealy sprang into her arms: "[She] came through the door and it was there, huge and permanent and first." Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (May 14) Forecast: Patchett and Grealy are graduates of the Iowa Writers Workshop, and alumni and other literary types will be interested in this book. National advertising and a reading group guide could make it popular among a more general women's audience. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mourning her best friend, Lucy Grealy, Patchett relies on memory and selections from Grealy's letters to write of their shared lives in this moving tribute and eulogy. Ironically, Grealy (Autobiography of a Face) succumbed to a heroin overdose at age 39 after surviving Ewings Sarcoma as a child and multiple facial surgeries throughout her life. Alumnae of Sarah Lawrence College, the women met at the University of Iowa while working on their MFA degrees and became lifelong friends. Patchett's loneliness and love for her friend is heard in her voice; tonal variations aid the listener in identifying the speaker at any given moment. This program will be of interest to fans of both women. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Laurie Selwyn, Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Lucy Grealy, whose Autobiography of a Face (HarperCollins, 1995) found critical acclaim as well as a popular readership, died two years ago. Patchett first met the poet in college, became her roommate in graduate school, and remained devoted to her through years of artistic, medical, economic, and emotional upheavals. The ties binding these two women included resolve to meet physical adversity with energy and to place friendship beyond the reaches of either habit or convenience. Patchett moves the story from their acclimation to one another through her friend's lifelong desire to gain a reconstructed face and the lengths to which she went in search of what she'd lost to childhood cancer, to Grealy's ultimate slide into drugs and suicidal ideations. Patchett's own self-perception as the straight arrow to her friend's daredevilry is disclosed across time, as is Grealy's increasingly frenetic chase for a reconstructed face and, as important, for fame earned through writing. In spite of the story unfolding through the years between college and near middle age, teenage girls will find it accessible and engaging. The author's clear-eyed depiction of the writer's life as requiring gigs waiting tables and suburban tract housing is refreshingly honest. She includes details of more glamorous moments as well; this is no cautionary tale, but a celebration of friendship and of craft.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In her first nonfiction, novelist Patchett (Bel Canto, 2001, etc.) paints a deeply moving portrait of friendship between two talented writers, illuminating the bond between herself and poet Lucy Grealy. Although they were undergraduates together at Sarah Lawrence, it was not until 1981, when both were teaching and writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, that the young women's lives collided. As Patchett recounts it, the tiny Grealy (Autobiography of a Face, 1994) leaped into her arms. "It was not so much a greeting as it was a claim: she was staking out this spot on my chest and I was to hold her for as long as she wanted to stay." That image persists in their 20-year friendship; Grealy had a powerful hold on her many friends, Patchett included. A survivor of childhood cancer with a badly disfigured face and a frail body, Grealy struggled with enormous physical difficulties, bouts of depression, and money problems; she was also given to reckless sexual adventures. Early in their friendship, Patchett decided that she would not spend her time worrying about her friend; instead, she would show her love in actions. And she did so for the rest of Grealy's short life, providing shelter, paying bills, giving post-surgery care, cleaning up the messes. After Iowa, their lives took different paths, but their friendship remained strong. Patchett saved Grealy's letters to her and includes generous excerpts that make it easier to understand her commitment to her demanding friend. The letters reveal Grealy's warmth, her captivating intellect, her poet's eye. After her last round of surgery failed, she went from prescription painkillers to street heroin, and her life spiraled downward, but even whenGrealy was most devastated and difficult, Patchett still found her the person she knew best and was most comfortable with, the friend like no other to whom she could speak with "complexity and nuance."A tough and loving tribute, hard to put down, impossible to forget. Agent: Lisa Bankoff/ICM
New York Times Book Review
“An inspired duet...riveting.”
Joyce Carol Oates—New York Times Book Review
“An inspired duet...riveting.”
New York Times Book Review - Joyce Carol Oates
"An inspired duet...riveting."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060572143
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/11/2004
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Truth & Beauty
A Friendship

Chapter One

The thing you can count on in life is that Tennessee will always be scorching hot in August. In 1985 you could also pretty much count on the fact that the U-Haul truck you rented to drive from Tennessee to Iowa, cutting up through Missouri, would have no air-conditioning or that the air-conditioning would be broken. These are the things I knew for sure when I left home to start graduate school. The windows were down in the truck and my stepsister, Tina, was driving. We sat on towels to keep our bare legs from adhering to the black vinyl seats and licked melted M&Ms off our fingers. My feet were on the dashboard and we were singing because the radio had gone the way of the air conditioner. "Going to the chapel and we're -- gonna get mar-ar-aried." We knew all the words to that one. Tina had the better voice, one more reason I was grateful she had agreed to come along for the ride. I was twenty-one and on my way to be a fiction writer. The whole prospect seemed as simple as that: rent a truck, take a few leftover pots and pans and a single bed mattress from the basement of my mother's house, pack up my typewriter. The hills of the Tennessee Valley flattened out before we got to Memphis and as we headed north the landscape covered over with corn. The blue sky blanched white in the heat. I leaned out the window and thought, Good, no distractions.

I had been to Iowa City once before in June to find a place to live. I was looking for two apartments then, one for myself and one for Lucy Grealy, who I had gone to college with. I got a note from Lucy not long after receiving my acceptance letter from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She said that initially when she heard I had gotten into the workshop she was sorry, because she had wanted to be the only student there from Sarah Lawrence. But then our mutual friend Jono Wilks had told her that I was going up early to find housing and if this was the case, would I find a place for her as well? She couldn't afford to make the trip to look herself and so it went without saying that she was on a very tight budget. I sat at the kitchen table and looked at her handwriting, which seemed oddly scrawny and uncertain, like a note on a birthday card from an elderly aunt. I had never seen her writing before, and certainly these were the only words she had ever addressed to me. While Lucy and I would later revise our personal history to say we had been friends since we met as freshmen, just for the pleasure of adding a few more years to the tally, the truth was we did not know each other at all in college. Or the truth was that I knew her and she did not know me. Even at Sarah Lawrence, a school full of models and actresses and millionaire daughters of industry, everyone knew Lucy and everyone knew her story: she had had a Ewing's sarcoma at the age of nine, had lived through five years of the most brutal radiation and chemotherapy, and then undergone a series of reconstructive surgeries that were largely unsuccessful. The drama of her life, combined with her reputation for being the smartest student in all of her classes, made her the campus mascot, the favorite pet in her dirty jeans and oversized Irish sweaters. She kept her head tipped down so that her long dark blond hair fell over her face to hide the fact that part of her lower jaw was missing. From a distance you would have thought she had lost something, money or keys, and that she was vigilantly searching the ground trying to find it.

It was Lucy's work-study job to run the film series on Friday and Saturday nights, and before she would turn the projector on, it was up to her to walk in front of the screen and explain that in accordance with the New York State Fire Marshal, exits were located at either side of the theater. Only she couldn't say it, because the crowd of students cheered her so wildly, screaming and applauding and chanting her name, "LOO-cee, LOO-cee, LOO-cee!" She would wrap her arms around her head and twist from side to side, mortified, loving it. Her little body, the body of an underfed eleven-year-old, was visibly shaking inside her giant sweaters. Finally her embarrassment reached such proportions that the audience recognized it and settled down. She had to speak her lines. "In accordance with the New York State Fire Marshal," she would begin. She was shouting, but her voice was smaller than the tiny frame it came from. It was no more than a whisper once it passed the third row.

I watched this show almost every weekend. It was as great a part of the evening's entertainment as seeing Jules et Jim. Being shy myself, I did not come to shout her name until our junior year. By then she would wave to the audience as they screamed for her. She would bow from the waist. She had cut off her hair so that it was now something floppy and boyish, a large cowlick sweeping up from her pale forehead. We could see her face clearly. It was always changing, swollen after a surgery or sinking in on itself after a surgery had failed. One year she walked with a cane and someone told me it was because they had taken a chunk of her hip to grind up and graft into her jaw.

We knew things about Lucy the way one knows things about the private lives of movie stars, by a kind of osmosis of information ...

Truth & Beauty
A Friendship
. Copyright © by Ann Patchett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three works of nonfiction. She is the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, England's Orange Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year, and was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is the co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, Karl, and their dog, Sparky.

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three works of nonfiction. She is the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, England's Orange Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year, and was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is the co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, Karl, and their dog, Sparky.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Nashville, Tennessee
Date of Birth:
December 2, 1963
Place of Birth:
Los Angeles, California
Education:
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987
Website:
http://www.annpatchett.com

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4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book with a mix of emotions: I was frequently thrilled by the construction of a sentence while being saddened by the story it told. But the bottom line is that I loved it. Loved it in the unique kind of way that such a sad story can be loved. I loved Ann's courageousness to share such intimate, probably often painful memories. I loved the fact that anyone even wrote a memoir about friendship - one of the truest, most oft unsung staples of life. I find myself wishing that I could have a long gab with Ann and ask her more about Lucy or about her other friends. I feel like she understands both friendships and writing, which makes her book a remarkable offering. Yes, be prepared for a peek into a unuiqe relationship. Yes, be prepared for some sadness. Yes, have your phone handy to call up your best friend and tell him/her that you love him/her. But don't close your mind because of tears or differences. Let Ann and Lucy's friendship take you by storm, and enjoy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is being publicized as a moving account of an enduring, loving friendship. It actuality, it is a disturbing tale of an unhealthy, co-dependent union between two women who both have severe emotional problems. Ann Patchett wrote an article for New York Magazine following the death of her friend Lucy Grealy; this book is simply a longer version of that article. Patchett cannot stop reiterating how everybody loved Lucy, how so many people were enamoured of her, 'so many people in love with her'. In reality, Grealy comes across as being very much alone. I get the impression that people viewed her as a sort of interesting novelty because of her history of illness and facial disfigurement, and that's why she got a fair amount of attention from various types of people. Certainly people were not attracted to her because of her sterling character. Even Patchett, who is bizarrely devoted to Grealy no matter how abominably she behaves, admits that Lucy was frequently awful. Lucy was the roommate from hell; she left all the cooking and cleaning duties to Patchett, while she herself left bowls of Cream of Wheat on the floor, left wet towels under pillows and runs up huge phone bills. After Patchett moves into a house with a boyfriend, Grealy, for some unexplained reason, gets a key to the place, which enables her to bring men there and have sex with them in Patchett and the boyfriends's bed. After doing so, she tells Patchett all about it...some friend! Despite Patchett's protestions about how wonderful Lucy is, I find Lucy to be downright unbearable; self-absorbed, reckless, promiscuous, thoughtless, and psychotically needy. Over and over she asks Patchett 'do you love me?'; over and over she is jumping into Patchett's arms, wrapping her legs around her waist, leaning her head on her shoulder, crawling into bed with her, hanging on to her as a limpet to a rock. Grealy is morbidly jealous on any relationship Patchett has with anyone else be they male or female. When Patchett wants to work with a woman named Betsy, she asks for Grealy's permission! Patchett does literally everything for Grealy; she gives, gives gives, while Grealy takes, takes, takes. What sense can be made of this? The only thing I can figure is that Patchett is a person who needs to be used. Grealy was a master at doing this, so no wonder Patchett was hooked on this creepy 'friendship' that seems more like a marriage. One final note: Grealy's sister Suellen, has some choice words about this book. You can read about her views in The Guardian Review. She is understandable upset by what she feels is the exploitation of her sister by Ann Patchett (who she does not regard as a very skilled writer) and by how her family has been portrayed since Grealy's death. Patchett remarked to Suellen that she has been working, writing, and living in 'the Lucy factory' and discussed film rights. Crass.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully crafted story of an intense, demanding friendship in which Patchett seems to be doing all the giving. You question the health and craziness of that relationship throughout the book -- something Patchett herself doesn't address. That's disappointing.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
a powerful book about unconditional love. What made it even better, and why it touched me so much, was that every word of it was true. sad, but beautiful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a lovely but sad story of what and how we perceive ourselves and those around us.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There was a couple chapters that were boring but for the most part the book was ok. It made me feel sad for lucy and it was kind of depressing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My Opinion i honestly can say i thought this book was disturbing it had good parts but for the most part it was sad.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not put this down, stopped grading papers in order to finish so I could concentrate. Also, it was so interesting catching the names of all my other favorite authors as I read, especially Adrian LeBlanc! I would love to have spent time with Lucy, Anne, and Adrian!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A beautiful cover to accompany a beautifully written memoir!!! Ann Patchett successfully tells the story of her friend, a passionate poet whose battle with childhood cancer defined much of her life. This book offers a glimpse into the life of struggling writers while focusing on the beautiful relationship between two best friends. Lucy Grealy truly was a beautiful person who overcame overwhelming adversity but who sadly never saw herself as loved.... she'll live on forever in the memories of her friends and in the prose of Ann Patchett. Touching and worthwhile... I devoured this one in two evenings.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a well written book that makes you think about how you would handle life in either Lucy's or Ann's shoes. They both had issues to deal with. Ann is a great writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A proverb tells us that love is blind while friendship closes its eyes. PEN/Faulkner Award winning author Ann Patchett must have closed her eyes many times without even being aware that she was doing so during her enduring friendship with fellow writer Lucy Grealy. It is this relationship that is lovingly chronicled in 'Truth & Beauty.' Patchett reads the story of the years the duo shared with honesty, conviction and deep affection. As some know Grealy suffered from a rare form of cancer that cost her part of her jaw and untold hours on the operating table that could not halt the spread of the disease. She died at the too young age of 39 two years ago. Roommates at the University of Iowa Patchett and Grealy immediately bonded, sharing visions of becoming famous writers and taking the world by storm. Of course, as young women will there were also endless discussions about boys, the men they might marry. Their friendship spanned two decades and stands as moving testament to the strength of love and the meaning of loyalty. Listening to this CD is reward in itself, an opportunity to share the lives of two dauntless women joined by the bonds of limitless devotion. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truth & Beauty is a non-fiction novel that takes a chance. Patchett steps out of her natural realm of fiction and into a deep relationship that is not often explored by the authors of today. Unlike the love that is so often expressed in romantic terms, Truth & Beauty is about a true love felt among the best of friends. Many tribulations take place during their frienship and the reader is invited into the many writings and conversations between the two people. I enjoyed this book because it dared to take a chance. So often we read the books that all have the same message and so often we are told what books to like and what not to like. Truth & Beauty is the opposite. Patchett tells this story because she has to, because it is true and it is beautiful. She does not write it to make money or gain fame. It reminds me very much of last year's controversial release Lucky Monkeys In The Sky. A story of truth, dreams, and love beyond the oridinary, bigger than the very universe itself. The books are equally daring (particulary with their unique writing styles). They are also equally honest, eloquent and, most of all, necessary. Take the chance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What makes Ann Patchett's book so wonderful and moving (and it is those things and more), is the fact that she tells the story of her friendship with Lucy Grealy in a way that restores faith in what friendship is really about -- i.e., this is an unfliching gaze not only at love but in confusion and betrayal, as well. It is also a book that reminds us -- in a time when, as a country anyway, we may have forgotten -- how one's commitment to individuality and passion make the world a bearable place to live.