Ann Patchett gets personal in her new collection of essays, ‘This is the Story of a Happy Marriage’

Ann Patchett reflects on fiction version nonfiction and the state of books today in a conversation with chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown.

“Nonfiction is easy and fiction is hard.”

That’s according to Ann Patchett, author of “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder.” Her new book, “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” collects autobiographical essays that reflect on, yes, her husband, but also writing, her friends, opening a bookstore and the other details that make up her life and experience.

“I published in a wide field so no one was reading all of my nonfiction pieces. I could write very personal things, thinking, well maybe this person is going to read that and someone else is going to read this,” Patchett told chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown during a recent visit to the NewsHour.

“But putting them all together — all of those personal pieces side by side — was very cringe-inducing. And even when I finished the book, it took me a long time to decide that I wanted to publish it.”

But publish she did. The collection chronicles her experiences at Seventeen magazine — where she wrote articles like “When the chemistry isn’t there” or “How to decorate your locker” — through her first marriage, to her advice about becoming a writer.

Patchett also recently opened an independent bookstore in her hometown of Nashville, Tenn. She believes wholeheartedly in the sustainability of books because, as she put it, people “still need a place to come and look at books and talk to smart book sellers about what to read next.”

And yet, according to Patchett, Parnasses Books is more than just a store. “We’re a community center, we’re your children’s story hour, we’re the jazz workshop, we’re fabulous authors coming through town.”

A version of this interview will air on Friday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour. Tune in to our Ustream channel at 6 p.m. to livestream the show or check your local PBS listings.

An earlier version of this post, published on November 15 did not talk about Parnasses Books. This post was updated on December 13, 2013.