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Elizabeth Gilbert: As your close personal friend, I happen to know that you traveled to the Amazon to conduct research for this novel, and that you sort of hated the Amazon--can you share a little about that?
Ann Patchett: I absolutely loved the Amazon for four days. It was gorgeous and unfamiliar and deeply fascinating. Unfortunately, I stayed there for ten days. There are a lot of insects in the Amazon, a lot of mud, surprisingly few vegetables, too many snakes. You can’t go anywhere by yourself, which makes sense if you don’t know the terrain, but I enjoy going places by myself. I can see how great it would be for a very short visit, and how great it would be if you lived there and had figured out what was and wasn’t going to kill you, but the interim length of time isn’t great.
EG: Didn't I hear that you have a sort of magical story about a friend who is also a writer, who was also once going to write a book about the Amazon? Can you share this miraculous tale? Also, is your writer friend pretty?
AP: This friend of mine, who happens to be you, is gorgeous, and much taller in real life. Yes, you were writing a novel about the Amazon, and then you decided not to write a novel about the Amazon, and then I started writing a novel about the Amazon, and later when we compared notes (your book dismissed, mine halfway finished) they had remarkably similar story lines, to the point of being eerie. I thought this must be because it was an incredibly banal idea and we had both come up with a generic Amazon novel, but then you told me that ideas fly around looking for homes, and when the idea hadn’t worked out with you it came to me. If this is true I think your name should be on the cover. It would increase sales significantly.
EG: Readers of your prior work--particularly the luminous Bel Canto--will be delighted to see that opera makes an appearance in this novel, as well. In fact, one of the most dramatic scenes in the book takes place at the opera. Is that a wink and a nod to loyal readers, or just an expression of your own deep and abiding musical passions?
AP: It’s a wink and a nod to Werner Herzog and his brilliant Amazon film “Fitzcarraldo” which opens at the opera house in Manaus where the aforementioned scene takes place. I had very little experience with opera when I wrote Bel Canto, and since then it’s become a huge part of my life. It was fun to write a scene set at the opera now that I know what I’m talking about.
EG: State of Wonder a rollicking adventure story, full of peril and bravery and death-defying action. I personally know you to be a homebody who likes to bake muffins for neighbors. How the heck did you pull off this wildness so convincingly? Was it as invigorating to write as it is to read?
AP: Ah, the life of the mind. All the adventure I need I can dream up in my kitchen. I love writing outside of my own experience, making imaginary worlds. If I wrote novels based on my own life I would not be making a living at this. I also love to write a strong plot. I want things to happen in my books, I want to be thrilled. I always think about Raymond Chandler. I’m sure I’m getting the phrasing wrong but the general idea is that when things get slow, bring in a man with a gun. If you can’t find a gun, a poison arrow works just as well.
EG: The cover is a work of beauty. Authors are not always so lucky. Tell us how you managed such a miracle?
AP: When I first started writing this book, I came downstairs one night and found my husband listening to “Horowitz at Carnegie Hall”. The album cover has a very lush filigreed border. I had two thoughts: first, I have an amazing husband who thankfully held onto his Horowitz LPs; second, that the album cover had the exact the feeling I wanted for my book--half jungle, half Baroque period. When I was finished writing the novel I sent the album to my editor, who sent it to the art department. They understood exactly what I was talking about.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
It is well written and a very compelling story.
When I started to read, sleep became a waste of time, but I had to put the book down and get some sleep, only to take it up again and finish it.
I found it slow, boring, weak characters, pages of mundane conversations, unrealistic plot and an implausable ending.
I read her essay collection "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage" which I loved but this the first fiction I have read by Ann Patchett. Read morePublished 1 day ago by C. Purcell
Either this is an extremely skilled writer or a lousy one. I'm really not sure. The first 80% of the book was slow going--lots of detail, description and rehashing of a dream... Read morePublished 3 days ago by K. M.
I liked her writing skills and was disappointed with this novel. I read it twice because I wanted to know where I missed the spark that others touted. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Crow Johnson Evans
This is the book that made me fall in love with Ann Patchett and seek out her other books. It's a slow sculpture of the characters that become so real, you miss them when the... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Linda A. Katsiotas
Much of the plot setting is totally unrealistic (my career is in drug development), but the character descriptions and details made this a very enjoyable page-turner. Read morePublished 7 days ago by David
loved it. a riveting story with great characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to read another one by this author!Published 9 days ago by jd
I read the book while in the Amazon on vacation! It was great because the book has a tight tension and at the same time provides a great and descriptive context to the Amazon. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Fathima dada
Ann Pratchett has told a captivating tale of adventure and self-described, of loss and of love. The characters are genuine and all become likable in the end.Published 12 days ago by John Seymour