Ann Patchett: Truth and Beauty

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship - Ann Patchett

It was nice to read this just a few books after My Brilliant Friend, so I could compare the two.


Patchett was so loving and tender in her descriptions of her friend Lucy Grealy, and she made it more than clear why she found Grealy lovable. I believed her, but I also know that a huge personality like Grealy's can be difficult to endure for a long period of time, and Patchett strikes me as the type of person who needs a long dose of calm and quiet every now and then. Wouldn't she struggle with Grealy's emotional excesses? Wouldn't there be times when she just lost her patience?


The inner conflict of close relationships is completely missing from this memoir. It's possibly that Patchett never minded being in this lopsided friendship, where Grealy gushes and takes and Patchett just gives. Grealy may really have been so charming that Patchett never tired of her. But even if she had nothing but love for Grealy, that dynamic always has a dark side: surely Grealy's overbright personality would have made the (still outstanding!) Patchett feel dull and boring by comparison. What kind of effect does that have on Patchett's view of herself, her personality, or her own writing? Does she love being around Grealy, but kind of hate herself a bit afterwards? Does Grealy inspire her to be greater, but also erode her confidence that she ever can be?


But if you want to hear about any of that, you have to read My Brilliant Friend. To be fair, I only made it about 60% through this book (on my second attempt), and it might get more fraught towards the end. Maybe Patchett gets more honest, or draws healthy boundaries, or just starts to see Grealy more realistically. There was no hint of that in the first part, so I set this book down and won't pick it up again.