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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mrs. Nixon

Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life by Ann Beattie really is all it's cracked up to be--which means it is also worth a turn on your Lazy Susan of books.

This novel is part author meditation on writing and part imagined stories based on fact.  Ms. Beattie takes events that are loose in their description and adds what she imagines might have happened: discussions between Mrs. Nixon (it's always Mrs. Nixon, rarely "Pat") and her daughters, interactions between Mrs. Nixon and "RN" (as President Nixon is called in this book), and thoughts she might have had while all of this takes place. 

In one chapter, Ms. Beattie uses The Glass Menagerie as a metaphor for Mrs. Nixon's life and it was one of the most powerful chapters in this book.  The comparison was beautiful and moving, and I appreciated such an eloquent homage to the former First Lady.

Truly, there wasn't a passage in this book that I didn't enjoy.  I found the meditations on being a novelist and using an historical character to be the most interesting, as Ms. Beattie examined how to remain true to the essence of Mrs. Nixon while still telling an interesting story--and balancing all of this with her novelist's imagination.  Fascinating. 

I must confess, prior to this book I had no interest in Mrs. Nixon other than adoring Joan Allen in the movie Nixon.  My interest has been piqued, however, and I am looking forward to doing a bit more poking around on the life of Mrs. Nixon.

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