from Ann Beattie’s Imagination – Mrs. Pat Nixon

A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, with her own collection of short stories making the best seller list (see the review below), Ann Beattie has imagined Pat Nixon’s life in a fictionalized version of the former first lady’s life and thoughts – Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life – to be published this month.  Not the first time a First Lady has recently been subjected to conjecture:  Laura Bush in Curtis Sittenfeld’s An American Wife, Hilary Clinton in Sue Miller’s The Senator’s Wife.  Monica Ali even resurrected Princess Diana with a new life in Untold Story.

In her article for the New York Times, Me and Mrs. Nixon, Beattie offers her rationale for creating her own scrutiny of Richard Nixon’s wife – a seeming paragon of old-fashioned values, married to a man with no values.  What must have been going on in her head?  How did she manage to fade so effectively into the background – even behind the intensity of her daughters?

Beattie offered a taste of what to expect in her recent excerpt in The New Yorker – Starlight.  The book might be fun to read, but, like others in this genre, it could be hard to remember it’s fiction.

  • Read the review of Ann Beattie – the New Yorker Storieshere

First Ladies Write

One of the perks of being First Lady – besides wearing designer clothes and getting your hair done every day – is that after you become a former (not an “ex”), you can write your book.

Rosalynn Carter, never the typical first lady, and still hammering away at houses for the unfortunate with her former president/husband, has a new book on mental health, Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis. Both Carters are prolific, but this publication seems particularly timely. http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.org/library/carterbi.phtml

Laura Bush, the most recent former, just published her memoirs, Spoken from the Heart, with lots of gossip and the revelation of how her husband stopped drinking – haven’t we heard that story already?

Sue Miller’s The Senator’s Wife was a fictionalized version of a political wife, with lots of juicy references that seemed to point to Hilary Clinton’s “stand-by-your-man” marriage.  Those of us who needed vindication finally get it here.   More satisfying than Hilary Clinton’s own Living History.

Miller’s most recent, The Lake Shore Limited, has nothing to do with politics and moves in the circles of Vermont and Boston – looks like a good read – on my pile now.