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.