Friedmann, Patty 1946–
Friedmann, Patty 1946–
Born October 29, 1946, in New Orleans, LA; daughter of Werner and Marjorie Friedmann; married Robert E. Skinner, March 17, 1979 (divorced, November 7, 1996); married Edward G. Muchmore, November 11, 1999; children: Esme Roberson, Werner Friedmann, II. Education: Smith College, A.B., 1968; Temple University, M.Ed., 1970; University of Denver, A.B.D., 1975.
Authors Guild, Author's League, PEN America.
Discover Great New Writers award, Barnes & Noble, and Original Voices designation, Borders, both 1999, both for Eleanor Rushing; Book Sense 76 designation, 2002, for Secondhand Smoke.
Too Smart to Be Rich (humor), New Chapter Press, 1988.
The Exact Image of Mother (fiction), Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
Eleanor Rushing (fiction), Counterpoint (Washington, DC), 1999.
Odds (fiction), Counterpoint (Washington, DC), 2000.
Secondhand Smoke (fiction), Counterpoint (Washington, DC), 2002.
Side Effects: A New Orleans Love Story, Shoemaker & Hoard (Emeryville, CA), 2005.
A Little Bit Ruined: A Novel, Shoemaker & Hoard (Emeryville, CA), 2007.
Contributor to anthologies, including The Great New American Writers Cookbook, Above Ground, Christmas Stories from Louisiana, My New Orleans, New OrleansNoir, and Life in the Wake. Contributor of short stories, essays, and reviews to periodicals, including Oxford American, Speakeasy, New Orleans Review, Times-Picayune, Publishers Weekly, Newsweek, Horn Gallery, LA LIT, Short Story, and Brightleaf.
Patty Friedmann's work is often dubbed "darkly comical." She writes about the most distressing aspects of human existence—the death of a child, the betrayal of trusted elders, marital infidelity—with "warmth, sweetness, and humor," in the words of a Publishers Weekly contributor. Among the books to Friedmann's credit are Too Smart to Be Rich, a book of humor, and the novels Eleanor Rushing, Odds, and The Exact Image of Mother.
Published in 1999, Eleanor Rushing is the gripping tale of one woman's obsession with a married man. The book is narrated by Eleanor, who, it becomes increasingly apparent to the reader, is delusional at best; no one could have lived a life as full of pain and torture as Eleanor claims hers to be. However, the denials of those around her often seem to be too self-serving to be trusted completely, either. Who wouldn't deny allegations of philandering and child abuse? As Laura Carter described it in the Winston-Salem Journal, there are four levels of reality which the reader must puzzle through in this novel: "There's Eleanor's reality, there is the reality of the people who deny her stories; there is my reality in which I'm floundering, trying to figure out what the truth is, and … sandwiched among all those realities is the real reality. And I'm still trying to find that one."
Friedmann described Odds as "probably my best novel [to date], a tight, tight parable about accident and probability. When a young mother faces the ultimate triage—which of her two drowning children must she save?—she sets in motion a life of grappling with her own choices: is all predetermined and random, or does she have control?" In the novel, Anna is haunted by several past decisions, including an early marriage to an unattractive but financially secure lawyer, as well as her decision to save her physically challenged but kind son rather than her physically perfect but mean-spirited one. Facing constant blame from her husband for allowing his favorite son to drown, Anna turns to gambling, figuring that the odds will have to go her way someday. A Publishers Weekly contributor claimed that, despite the grim subject matter of Odds, Friedmann's "quirky imagination, bolstered by striking images and witty asides, grants this novel a winning charm."
Secondhand Smoke, Friedmann's fourth work of fiction, is an offbeat story of a dysfunctional Southern family that is set primarily in New Orleans. Matriarch Ru Baily sets off, along with her grown son and daughter, to give her husband a military burial in Arlington Cemetery. Each of the family members is struggling with careers and relationships, and Ru feels little connection with them. In a search for companionship, she finds herself making friends with a local ten-year-old boy, whose own mother has little time for him. Library Journal reviewer Ann H. Fisher opined: "Both funny and sad, this novel deserves the wild popularity it is sure to achieve."
Side Effects: A New Orleans Love Story follows the relationship of three individuals, Luciana Jambon, Lennon Israel, and Vendetta Green, living in New Orleans and working at a local pharmacy. Friedmann gives readers a glimpse into each of the characters's lives, from Luciana's difficult family to Lennon's growing feelings for Luciana, and Vendetta's struggles as a single mother. In addition, the story now acts as a memory book of the city so altered by the hurricane Katrina. The book tackles issues of race, ageism, and weight, as well as the daily trials of living a life. Liza Nelson, writing for Kirkus Reviews, remarked: "Friedmann's love for New Orleans and its eccentrics just misses sentimentality thanks to her cheerful willingness to show the rougher sides of her characters and her city."
Friedmann once told CA: "When I was eleven and boarding the train for sleepaway camp, my mother said, ‘Don't worry. You're very funny. Just be funny, and you'll have a lot of friends.’ The subtext, of course, was that I had little else to recommend me. Still, when I was almost forty and still dreaming of adulation for my serious words, I resorted to humor to explain myself—and to break into print. Too Smart to Be Rich is a paean to the failures among us who are full of potential but never have excelled by quantitative standards—first grades, then money. With a publishing ‘history’ I could sell my first fiction. The Exact Image of Mother was literary fiction, an autobiographical tale of the single motherhood of a neglected twenty-eight-year-old daughter for whom Too Smart to Be Rich could have been written. It was labeled darkly comical, and darkly comical I have remained. Seven years passed before I sold Eleanor Rushing, another literary novel. A tale of erotomania—delusional stalking—it pushed many limits because the unreal ‘recollections’ of the narrator were outrageous; one simply had to finish the book to realize that nothing grotesque actually happened.
"My writing history goes back less than fifteen years. The years preceding it were marked only by slow fermentation of my mind—teaching school and freelancing nonfiction. I claim none of it specifically.
"I don't read fiction now; reviewing soured it for me, and I fear the intrusion of others' voices. I do credit my seemingly wasted years at Smith College with giving me my writing instincts. I think a liberal arts education gives me what I need for fiction. For instance, I saw some hierarchical principles in Secondhand Smoke as I was writing it, so while I was on tour for Odds I reread Plato's Republic. I got a C in Government 11, but I remember the myth of the metals."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2005, Liza Nelson, "Reality's Paradigm Shift," p. 1040.
Library Journal, April 1, 1999, Michele Leber, review of Eleanor Rushing, p. 128; August, 2000, Jim Dwyer, review of Odds, p. 155; September 15, 2005, Ann H. Fisher, review of Secondhand Smoke, p. 89.
New York Times Book Review, May 19, 1991, Julia Just, review of The Exact Image of Mother, p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1999, review of Eleanor Rushing, p. 61; August 28, 2000, review of Odds, p. 51.
Wilson Library Journal, May, 1989, Patty Campbell, review of Too Smart to Be Rich, p. 121.
Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem, NC), June 27, 1999, Laura Carter, review of Eleanor Rushing, p. A20.