Sunday, May 18, 2008

Words of Wisdom

“What Now?” is a wonderful essay by Ann Patchett the author of “Bel Canto” and other great stories. The essay/book is based on the commencement address that Ann Patchett gave at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence, in 2006. Ann Patchett has given many graduation speeches but for this particular commencement speech she had fortuitously run into her former writing teacher and showed him her original speech. He told her to start over again. He told her to talk about herself and the struggles she encountered on the road to finding herself and her voice. The resulting speech was a great success and ended up in the hands of an editor who thought it would make a very good book. The book “What Now?” is the original speech and a little more.

Ann Patchett tells the story of how she became an award winning author. That story takes many interesting twists and turns. And at each twist and turn the inevitable question was “What Now?” Ms. Patchett writes that the question, “What Now?” stands for the journey as well as the destination. And, the journey is so much more than the destination. She reminds us that the journey can offer unknown possibilities and joys. The question can appear at any time in life although it is so ominous at the time of graduation. When Ann Patchett gave the book to her 86 year old mother-in-law, she read it and wanted copies for all her friends. She told Ann that “We’re going through a real period of What Now? ourselves. At our age we’re all wondering what’s going to happen next. The question is always there. It’s just that you hear it a little louder.”

This book would be a great present for any recent graduate. But, it is also a reminder for everyone that we are all capable of growing and changing at any age with that small question--------What now?

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