Ann Patchett on The Dutch House

Ann Patchett on The Dutch House


This is the prettiest I’ve ever had. I think it’s the prettiest book anybody’s ever had. And the Waterstones edition has just taken it to a whole new level. Just the little extra touches are extraordinary . So, when I wrote this book, which is largely about a house, what I knew for certain was that
I didn’t want a house on the cover. Or any element of a house; a door, a window, nothing. Because it had to exist in the reader’s imagination. The best house in the world
is gonna be different for all of us. So we have to see it in our minds. But in this house, The Dutch House, there is a portrait of the ten year old main character, Maeve, and I wanted that portrait to be on the cover. So I thought, well, I’ll just look through archival paintings go to museum websites I’m sure to find a pretty, little,
ten year old, black-haired girl. And I did. I found plenty of them. But the problem was they were all wearing bonnets and pinafores and it didn’t work. And so I had already told my editor that I wanted this portrait on the cover and I called him and I said I have a friend in Nashville, Noah Saterstrom, and I think he might be able to paint this painting I’m gonna commission the painting from him. And my editor and the art director said that’s a great idea but before you contact him, (they’re in New York) we’re gonna make up a list of five or six painters that we want to interview and then we’ll look at everybody’s
samples and we’ll make a pick. And I got off the phone and thought
that’s not gonna happen. And so I called Noah And I said what’s the worst thing? I will pay for you to do this painting. Worst thing that happens, it doesn’t work,
and I’ve bought a painting. No harm done, that’s great. Noah did this painting in four days I said I want a 10 year old girl, red coat, it has been painted in 1950
in the style of 1910, the painter is Scottish and she is in love with him. Go for it. And four days later he came back with this painting. In four days. He has three tiny children. And he’s like either I do a commission instantly or I do it a year from now. And there’s nothing in between And so he just got on it. And we were friends before but now we’ve
become very close through all of this And it’s been hysterical because I’ll call him up and say hey Noah, you’re a tote bag now. Now you’re a refrigerator magnet Now you’re a roll of wallpaper And then he’ll say, no, you’re a tote bag. You know, the funny thing is, I don’t really ever have a hard image of anyone in my head So when I saw the painting what I thought was , that’s perfect. I did not think oh he’s read my mind because there wasn’t really anything in my mind. It’s so perfect And for the first time in my career I said anywhere this book sells in the world they have to use this painting. I don’t care if they just use her left eye I don’t care how they crop it It has to be this painting because it’s so perfect. And it feels so much like a collaboration. The painting is part of the novel. When you’re reading and then you get to the part where Maeve has her portrait painted
and you’re like, wait a minute, you go back to the cover and you think this is the painting in the house.

local_offerevent_note September 25, 2019

account_box Matthew Anderson


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