Merry Christmas! Let’s talk about the Nixons…

Mrs. Nixon by
Ann Beattie
If you like your books to be all one thing, cut and dried (perfectly
fictional, or perfectly nonfictional), then this book will drive you straight
up the wall.
For the rest of us, who maybe are intrigued by the occasional
mash-up: Splendor!
(Though. If I owned a copy of this book, I’d have to put it in
nonfiction for 6 months of the year, and then move it to fiction for the
remaining 6 months. There’s a small element of literary/shelving stress here.)
Beattie does some zany stuff in this book, including writing an
entire chapter in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s style, about two characters who haven’t
appeared before in the Nixon narrative. The man is writing a love letter to the
woman. Turns out, we learn at the end of the chapter that the text of the love
letter was the actual text of a letter Richard Nixon wrote to Pat. The rest of
it is all made up, characters and all.
This book is interesting,
guys.
You turn the page, and you don’t know if you’re going to get a
literary interpretation of the short story “The Necklace” or social commentary
in Pat Nixon’s voice or the author’s musings on why she felt drawn to write
about Pat Nixon of all people. (She
even writes a false version of events to explain why she chose this subject.
Then confesses immediately that the previous chapter was A Lie.)
And it all ties together.
There were several moments while reading this book that I gave
thanks to my 18-year-old self, who knew that majoring in English would have
been a bad idea for me. There was just enough literary analysis in this book to
remind me that I just don’t like doing that stuff. (Hello, readers! You ain’t gonna find nothing deep on this here book blog.)
Anyway. Pat Nixon. She’s one of those
so-placid-she’s-nearly-invisible political wives. So that’s actually pretty
intriguing, because you know she was having secret
thoughts
inside that perfectly-coiffed head of hers. So why not have a
novelist imagine what those thoughts were? And also, she was married to Richard Nixon! So there’s some built-in
tragedy there.
I’ll say it again: This book is interesting.
Thanks
to NetGalley and Scribner for the ARC.

by

Reader, librarian, & happy little geek

2 thoughts on “Merry Christmas! Let’s talk about the Nixons…

  1. Oh, my God, yes! Cool! Ann Beattie? I haven't thought about her in years.

    My parents and grandparents hated Nixon, but what really put the capper on my mother and grandmother's dislike of the man is when he made a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and Pat came out on stage and walked up to embrace him and he held her off by turning away or stiff-arming her or some kind of repulse. They didn't suddenly start loving Pat, but they spoke of her with sympathetic tones in their voices ever after.

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