If you’re looking for a thoughtful gift for a recent
graduate, consider Ann Patchett’s What Now?, based on her commencement address
at Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. In the slim volume, she describes her
own initial frustration when well-meaning family, friends and neighbors posed a
chorus of questions as she neared her college graduation. You know the ones:
What are you going to do after you’re done with school? What’s next for you? “I
knew I wanted to be a novelist,” she writes, “but where was the ad in the paper
for that one? ‘Novelist wanted: should be able to stare. Light typing
She shares how she learned to appreciate uncertainty and
reflects on the writing process: “Writing a novel and living a life are very
much the same thing. The secret is finding the balance between going out to get
what you want and being open to the thing that actually winds up coming your
The bestselling author of Bel Canto offers plenty of other
wise thoughts and personal stories. Besides high school and college graduates,
this inspirational book will please aspiring and working writers as well as
fans of her books. And design aficionados, take note: Chip Kidd designed the
book and its cover.
This graduation season let someone else ask the dreaded
questions. Then slip a copy of What Now? into a graduate’s hands.
C. Lange, associate editor
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