In my last post I shared what I learned from Lucy Grealy‘s Autobiography of a Face. Reading that book was not one of my best “moments.”
Not long after I read that book and experienced the feeling that I didn’t completely connect, I read a companion work. Truth & Beauty, by Ann Patchett, is a memoir reflecting on the writer’s friendship with Lucy Grealy.
I fell into this book completely. No reservations at all. And it did make me wonder if Grealy’s very difficult personality (personality disorder? and addictions) weren’t something that I picked up on and made me wary when I read Autobiography of a Face. It will be hard to go back and re-read that book as if I don’t know the extent of her “use and abuse” of Patchett.
Then, again, this book is Patchett’s version. Grealy is gone and can’t comment on it. She can’t write a “response memoir.” So why am I so willing to believe Patchett’s version, but hold myself at a distance from Grealy’s version of what is, in essence, her self?
Oh, this memoir business is a tough business.
What did I learn from this book? That the hard truth can be presented in beauty if it is accompanied by compassion.
Here’s a thought. I suspect I didn’t like Grealy from reading her book. The question would be: why not? Maybe it was her lack of compassion for others. I just didn’t see any at all. Would that be because she was born with a personality incapable of feeling compassion? Or would it be a learned response to life, based on her difficulties?
It’s easy to see why Patchett and Grealy were friends. Patchett had enough compassion for them both.
13 responses to “A Responsive Reader”
You have described two books that present a sad, curious situation — a human mystery without an answer.
WJ, yes, it’s true. A very sad, curious situation. A human mystery but also a human tragedy.
This entry and the previous one sound fascinating! Might be worth it to read them both.
Ooh, I would love to hear what you think about them!
This is so interesting, Luanne. Having never read either book, this post makes me want to read Truth & Beauty. My question is, can I read T&B without reading Lucy’s story?
Jill, definitely go ahead and read “Truth and Beauty.” You will learn about Lucy and her story along the way. Then, if you want to, you can read Grealy’s book after. Patchett’s book more than stands on its own!
Great, thanks Luanne!
Fascinating comparison of the two books and the two personaities…
(Book in mail to you, Luanne! )
Thank you times two, Valerie! I can’t wait!
Such an interesting comparison. Now that I’ve seen through your writing how often our histories and tastes have paralleled, I am quite sure if YOU don’t like Grealy I certainly would not!
Shel, that’s certainly a fascinating theory–that our lives have paralleled so much that you wouldn’t like Grealy either. Haha, I actually did think at one point: I wonder what Shel would make of her. Isn’t that something?
Oh, my, another book to read 😉 Thanks, Luanne!
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