Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Truth and Beauty

The friendship between Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy, as laid out in Patchet’s memoir, Truth &Beauty, presents a code that can be deciphered only if someone has been through the same kind of trying friendship, one in which the give and take seem so lopsided that the friendship is like a flower constantly vacillating between decay and full bloom. Both writers, Ann and Lucy met at Syracuse University and went on to become roommates and writing buddies at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Their determination to climb up the rank of published, successful authors is inspiring, especially since they both did it. They helped each other by believing in the other’s talent and also by stoking their own cordial competitiveness. Lucy in the early days exhibited great neediness. She always wanted positive affirmation from Ann, asking, “Do you love me?” and even becoming possessive and acting as a self-appointed traffic controller, holding up a “Slow” sign whenever Ann’s other friends posed a threat of crashing into the special bond that she and Ann possessed. Lucy was a battered warrior, having overcome a rare cancer that resulted in the removal of her jaw bone. Surgery became the norm as she tried all her life to reconstruct her face. The abnormality of her appearance was the foundation of her loneliness, the reason why she believed she failed at love, and was fated for a lifetime of romantic rebuff.  She had lots of friends and she always wanted to be the center of attention, the center of everything, but Ann saw her at her most raw and vulnerable. Poignant scenes in the memoir included a time Ann visited Lucy while she was living in Scotland, and wildly attacked a group of drunken fools on the street who ridiculed Lucy’s appearance. Then there was another scene in which Ann and Lucy went to see a fortune teller. The prediction for Ann’s future was bright, and Lucy’s was bleak. I enjoyed this book because I could sweetly recall friendship with someone, who like Lucy, was very needy, and also like Lucy, died too soon. As the person who gave and gave and gave, I felt a kinship with Ann Patchett. No matter how trying the friendship may be, when you lose someone so magnificent, there’s a feeling that you would do it all again, just to have that person back in your life. 

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