Ann Patchett is the author of six novels: State of Wonder; the New York Times bestselling Run; The Patron Saint of Liars, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Taft, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize; The Magician’s Assistant; and Bel Canto, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Orange Prize, the BookSense Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
From her Q & A with Scott Eyman for the Palm Beach Post:
When we talked before, you raved about the experience of being taught by Grace Paley and Allen Gurganus, but dismissed the people at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Was that because they were more interested in their own writing than in their students?Learn about the book that changed Ann Patchett's life.
No. It’s just like being at a poker game and drawing a good hand. There’s nothing wrong with Iowa. I just drew bad hands. I think it’s a great program, with plenty of terrific people. I could have drawn bad hands at Sarah Lawrence, and not had that experience. It’s chemistry. Who are the other students? What’s the mood of the teacher? And also, where are you? When I was younger, I was more capable of being taught and molded and listening. People are always asking what influenced you, and they’re not the best books I’ve ever read, they’re the books I read when I was young. I didn’t read Henry James until I was in my 40s.
I love him. There are so many things we love when we’re young that are unpalatable as we get older. You know Karl Marlantis? He and my husband went to school together. He was here recently and had just seen “Easy Rider” for the first time in 40 years. And I said, ‘Oh, God, it’s horrible,’ and he said, ‘I had no idea. It’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and at the time I thought it was genius.’ If you’ve met anybody over the age of 19 who likes Ayn Rand, step slowly away from them.
So how do you explain the Neocons?
I can’t explain the Neocons. I think they haven’t reread her. She makes perfect sense when you’re 14, but never afterwards. Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is really bad too. I wrote an introduction for it when Gore Vidal dropped out. Sat down to read it and thought it was appalling. The gist of the introduction was, ‘Kids read this now, because you won’t want to read it again later.’ And at the risk of being lynched, I don’t think “To Kill a Mockingbird” is really very good; I think...[read on]