Several years ago, in my first year of living in the US I picked up from the library a book that sounded promising: Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. It was a magnificently written book on a fascinating topic: a poet and her struggle with cancer, disfigurement, pain, love. It was also a very sad book about a woman who could have transcended to a larger understanding of the world through her unimaginable pain, but didn’t–she couldn’t get out of the psychological carousel of self-inflicted negative emotion. However, her pain was multi-layered and very real and for nobody to judge.
Now, after many years, I read Ann Patchett’s book dedicated to her friendship with Lucy Grealy. This time it was not the gruesome aspects of the cancer, surgeries and disfiguring that stood out for me, but this beautiful friendship between two writers, their mutual jealousies, encouragement, help and love. I enjoyed reading about their fears of having wasted their lives, of having failed at writing, about the hard time they had of just sitting at the table in front of the computer. This is what made the book really interesting to me. Two very talented writers and their journeys to success. It also helped that the writing is magnificent: clear, simple, honest, sparkling in its unblemished beauty.