A Novelist Imagines a Life
By Ann Beattie
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781439168714, 304pp.)
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
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Dazzlingly original, Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon is a riveting exploration of an elusive American icon and of the fiction writer’s art.
Pat Nixon remains one of our most mysterious and intriguing public figures, the only modern First Lady who never wrote a memoir. Beattie, like many of her generation, dismissed Richard Nixon’s wife: “interchangeable with a Martian,” she said. Decades later, she wonders what it must have been like to be married to such a spectacularly ambitious and catastrophically self-destructive man.
Drawing on a wealth of sources from Life magazine to accounts by Nixon’s daughter and his doctor to The Haldeman Diaries and Jonathan Schell’s The Time of Illusion, Beattie reconstructs dozens of scenes in an attempt to see the world from Mrs. Nixon’s point of view. Like Stephen King’s On Writing, this fascinating and intimate account offers readers a rare glimpse into the imagination of a writer.
Beattie, whose fiction Vanity Fair calls “irony-laced reports from the front line of the baby boomers’ war with themselves,” packs insight and humor into her examination of the First Couple with whom boomers came of age. Mrs. Nixon is a startlingly compelling and revelatory work.
Ann Beattie has been included in four O. Henry Award Collections and in John Updike’s The Best American Short Stories of the Century. In 2000, she received the PEN/Malamud Award for achievement in the short story form. In 2005, she received the Rea Award for the Short Story. She and her husband, Lincoln Perry, live in Key West, Florida, and Charlottesville, Virginia, where she is Edgar Allan Poe Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.
Who was Pat Nixon? Aside from being the wife of President Richard Nixon â?? and a very private person â?? she remains mostly a mystery. Now, a new novel by Ann Beattie blends fact and fiction in an effort to sketch the life of the former first lady. More at NPR.org
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“Beattie gives us tantalizing glimpses of Mrs. Nixon, and a fully realized account of fiction, fiction writing, and the fiction writer.”—The Boston Globe
“Irresistible.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“Strikingly original…Both timely and unique: a postmodern take on Nixon’s life that blurs fact and fiction.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Beattie captures something familiar in Pat, making us care about her.” —Barbara Liss, The Houston Chronicle
“A fascinating look at the writer in her workshop.”—Alan Cheuse, NPR’s “All Things Considered”
“Beattie writes insightfully and with contagious excitement of the artistic process and offers remarkable analysis of the world’s literary greats…Her respect for them is a beautiful thing to behold.”—M.E. Collins, Chicago Sun-Times