Mrs. Nixon by Ann Beattie
A Novelist Imagines a Life

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Synopsis

Dazzlingly original, Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon is a riveting exploration of an elusive American icon and of the fiction writer’s art.

Pat Nixon remains one of our most mysterious and intriguing public figures, the only modern First Lady who never wrote a memoir. Beattie, like many of her generation, dismissed Richard Nixon’s wife: “interchangeable with a Martian,” she said. Decades later, she wonders what it must have been like to be married to such a spectacularly ambitious and catastrophically self-destructive man.

Drawing on a wealth of sources from Life magazine to accounts by Nixon’s daughter and his doctor to The Haldeman Diaries and Jonathan Schell’s The Time of Illusion, Beattie reconstructs dozens of scenes in an attempt to see the world from Mrs. Nixon’s point of view. Like Stephen King’s On Writing, this fascinating and intimate account offers readers a rare glimpse into the imagination of a writer.

Beattie, whose fiction Vanity Fair calls “irony-laced reports from the front line of the baby boomers’ war with themselves,” packs insight and humor into her examination of the First Couple with whom boomers came of age. Mrs. Nixon is a startlingly compelling and revelatory work.
 

About Ann Beattie

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Ann Beattie has been included in four O. Henry Award Collections and in John Updike’s The 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.
 
Published November 15, 2011 by Scribner. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, History, Political & Social Sciences. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Mrs. Nixon

The New York Times

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The title of Ann Beattie’s new book, “Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life,” suggests that the author might be trying to channel Pat Nixon or conjure up her life with Dick, much the way Curtis Sittenfeld channeled a Laura Bush-like first lady in her 2008 novel, “American Wife.” ...

Dec 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

The New York Times

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(Who relies anymore on Jonathan Schell’s arch, dated New Yorker dispatches?) I have never believed that novels should emulate history — with diligent investigation undertaken to show a superficial verisimilitude — but in the challenge of capturing the elusive Pat Nixon, insight might well have be...

Nov 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

The Wall Street Journal

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Scott Fitzgerald's death' and other lines that a certain first lady never would have uttered.

Nov 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

NPR

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Mrs. Nixon tells the story of an author as she tackles the challenge of writing a biography of former first lady Pat Nixon.

Nov 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

NPR

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In fiction, Ann Beattie channels first lady Pat Nixon, while Ben Marcus looks at the consequences of nasty rhetoric, and Jonathan Odell imagines a slave healer's life. In nonfiction, the creators of Portlandia offer a guided tour of Portland, Ore., and Ellen Forney reflects on her bipolar disorder.

Nov 13 2012 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

New York Journal of Books

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The question is, however, after reading it, should we return to the pages of Mrs. Nixon or just simply move on with our lives?In writing about Mrs. Nixon, Ann Beattie serves as a puppeteer who is showing us her strings, an artist who wishes to not only demonstrate the means by which she practices...

Nov 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

Entertainment Weekly

Other chapters take the form of lists (''Mrs. Nixon's Nicknames, Including Her Code Name as First Lady'') or letters (in ''My Anticipated Mail,'' Beattie predicts the angry responses she'll get from Nixon fans).

Nov 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

Los Angeles Times

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More appropriate titles might have been "A Novelist Writes About Writing, Using Mrs. Nixon as a Starting Point," or "MFA in a Book: A Short Story Writer on Writing."

Nov 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

San Francisco Chronicle

President Nixon, right, watches the ceremony along with Carl Albert, upper left, the Speaker of the House, and James O.

Nov 13 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

Oregon Live

In "Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life," Beattie writes of the Nixon presidency's denouement: "My eyes and my curiosity riveted themselves to Mrs. Nixon at her husband's side.

Nov 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

All she'll say of its genesis is that Mrs. Nixon chose her and that she was helpless to respond: "I am very happy to find myself paired with Mrs. Nixon, a person I would have done anything to avoid," she writes, as if she just happened to be seated next to her at a dinner party.

Nov 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

Chron.com

Consider the first five words of Walks With Men, Ann Beattie’s 2010 novella: “In 1980, in New York.” This is Beattie territory and the leitmotif of her numerous stories published to great acclaim in the New Yorker.

Nov 13 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

Bookmarks Magazine

Reviewed: The New Yorker Stories (3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2011), Walks With Men (3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2010), Follies (3 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2005).

Nov 13 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

Chicago Sun Times

Ann Beattie has written such a book, and it is called “Mrs. Nixon, A life I imagined whilst sitting in my living room in my slippers as I trolled through pictures of myself when I was a young woman.” Granted, this is not the actual title, but the book sure reads like it could have been named that...

Dec 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

Scholars And Rogues

those times I write fiction will be recognizable as such.” As an example, she has a section titled “Quirky Moments from Mrs. Nixon’s life,” which she then follows with a section she called “Moments of Mrs. Nixon’s Life I’ve Invented (on the theory that facts can provide only so much information,...

Jul 12 2012 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagin...

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