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Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life Hardcover – November 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Beattie has created a resplendent paean to the pleasures of the literary imagination , and a riveting and mischievous, revealing and revitalizing portrait of an overlooked woman.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

About the Author

Ann Beattie has been included in four O. Henry Award Collections, in John Updike’s The Best American Short Stories of the Century, and in Jennifer Egan’s The Best American Short Stories 2014. In 2000, she received the PEN/Malamud Award for achievement in the short story. In 2005, she received the Rea Award for the Short Story. She was the Edgar Allan Poe Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia (Emerita). She is a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters and of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She and her husband, Lincoln Perry, live in Maine and Key West, Florida.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (November 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439168717
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439168714
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,590,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ann Beattie has been included in four O. Henry Award Collections and in John Updike's Best American Short Stories of the Century. In 2000, she received the PEN/Malamud Award for achievement in the short story form. In 2005, she received the Rea Award for the Short Story. She and her husband, Lincoln Perry, live in Key West, Florida, and Charlottesville, Virginia, where she is Edgar Allan Poe Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Ettner on November 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
What a daunting challenge this author confronted when crafting "Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life."

Three incompatible players vie for attention in the book's 300 pages: the author, Ann Beattie; the husband of the woman first mentioned in the title, Richard Nixon; and the ostensible subject of the book, Pat Nixon. Each of these persons is known for practicing a kind of obscurantism, by which I mean deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known. For Beattie this has been an aesthetic choice. The writer Jay McInerney once described Beattie's preferred style as "a refusal to overdetermine her characters, a reluctance to explain their behavior." For President Nixon the withholding of information was a practice that dragged him ultimately to the brink of impeachment. For his wife Pat Nixon this behavior was an emotional defense, how she chose to preserve personal dignity in the face of prying inquisitors.

So what have these three jousting protagonists created? In the judgment of most readers who've posted reviews, the result is an odd, unstable, and ultimately dissatisfying book. Beattie, the ringleader, comes across as showy and self-indulgent. Nixon emerges as self-pitying, a boor to be around. And Pat Nixon? Even with all the creative forces at her disposal, Beattie fails to inspire the First Lady to escape her comfort zone. Mrs. Nixon remains, at book's end, an enigma.

What's to like about MRS. NIXON? Answers come from some professional critics who say the book is an interesting literary concoction, unclassifiable, genre-bending, playful and polymorphous, and unlike anything Beattie's written before. But notice how these descriptions avoid answering the question of whether the book is a worthwhile read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth S. on May 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I feel compelled to write this review because I disagree so strongly with the reviewers who disliked this book. I think it's brilliant - Ann Beattie explores the no-man's-land between biography and fiction, and between truth and perception, with wry wit and subtlety. Part of the job of reading a biography is picking out the author's lens and filters. Here, Ann Beattie has stripped off any pretense of impartiality, and shows us what goes on in the author's mind - both that of the biographers and of the fiction writer.

In fact, I originally borrowed this book from the library, and I looked it up on Amazon because I'm going to order copies to give to all my writer friends. I'll be reading this book again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jane L. Grau on December 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I only gave it a star so I could write a review. I can't finish the book -- it's awful. And yet in reading all the reviews, I get a better picture of Pat Nixon than I did reading this "novel." Could it be that Beattie's point, so irritatingly made, is that, like the book, Mrs. RN was a pastiche of fictions, ever an enigma because she wasn't real? I can't say more than that because I skipped all the tedious literary references and analyses. But again, maybe that's the point: As a personality, a character, Pat was painfully boring, and the story is her husband's, who Beatty makes out to be just painful. Enough -- a valiant effort at innovative writing, but a satisfying, nay, a good read? NO

I'm thinking the book's cover is telling: three colored images of Pat a la Warhol, who made statements about American mundanity in the form of celebrity. The images are flat, paper doll repetitive, vaguely human. The facial expression, however, is slightly uncomfortable, slightly wistful, slightly beautiful, ultimately inscrutable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JARCohen on August 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Given the very limited number of books about Pat Nixon, I chose this one rather than the one written by daughter, Julie. Poor choice on my part. The author of the book was more interested in exploring her own interpretations of other literary sources as she perceived they may or may not relate to Mrs. Nixon. Was she trying to impress readers with the (perhaps) breadth of her own reading, viewing, thinking? Whatever she was doing - she failed to present to me a picture of Pat Nixon, the woman. I was not interested in the author's application of possibilities and fantasies of the woman. I deleted the book from my kindle in an effort to make it go away. It was such a waste of my time. I really would like to know more about Mrs. Nixon. Perhaps I'll visit Julie's book after all. JRC
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Wheeler on July 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Picked this up because it looked intriguing. Ended up being just uninteresting. I'm not sure what the author was trying to do, but it didn't seem to shed any light on Mrs. Nixon. She seemed to be trying to cover literary criticism and exposition, her own personal views, what Richard Nixon was or wasn't thinking, and very little Pat Nixon.

Boring and self-indulgent.
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Format: Paperback
There are a hundred one star reviews for Mrs. Nixon here on Goodreads. And I agree with all of them!

But most of the negative reviews just focus on the obvious. Ann Beattie is too lazy to create any new characters, so she just pastes together a few excerpts from books already published about Richard and Pat Nixon. And she includes a whole bunch of unconnected snippets about her favorite short stories, and vague and generalized guidelines on the art of fiction that sound like she just photocopied her old lecture notes from her day job at University of Virginia. And she name drops shamelessly, promoting her old buddies and endlessly plugging the NEW YORKER. And it's all done in this really languid, arrogant, entitled way, like, "yeah, I'm phoning it in. But I'm SOMEBODY. Who are you, anyway?"

But after reading the whole book from beginning to end, I think I have an inkling of the real meaning of this "novel," if you can call it that. It's ugly and it stinks right to the top!

What Ann Beattie has done is to slip inside Mrs. Nixon's skin, not in order to show compassion for Pat and Dick, (though she makes vague, fake gestures in that direction from time to time) but primarily to take cheap shots at the Student Left, the Anti War movement, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, feminism, basically the whole nine yards.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

Nobody has profited more from the Baby Boom mystique than Ann Beattie. All of her early stories celebrate the spacy, self-indulgent vibe of her generation. Her sweet-natured debut novel CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER even features a swoony, vaguely feminine guy who obsesses over Janis Joplin. (Note to Ann: was Jimi Hendrix not good enough? Or just the wrong color?
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Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life
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