In 2011, the last bookstore in Nashville closed its doors. The book was dead, they said. Who needs bookstores when you can download the most popular titles straight to your preferred device—or better yet, wait for the film adaptation to hit theaters?
But Ann Patchett, a lifelong Nashvillian and bestselling author, was having none of it.
She recalled visiting the neighborhood bookstore of her youth, Mills, where the booksellers remembered your name and that you liked historical fiction over contemporary mysteries. Despite the dire warnings from her friends and colleagues in the literary industry, who insisted the indie bookstore was a dying breed, when Patchett was approached by a would-be partner to open a brand new storefront in downtown Nashville, she didn't hesitate. And thus, Parnassus Books, one of the most successful and beloved independents in the country, was born.
In the years since, Patchett has become a champion for independent booksellers, using her celebrity as an author to serve as a spokesperson on "The Colbert Report," NPR, "The Martha Stewart Show," and many others. Her passion in the service of literature has earned her numerous accolades, not least of which was inclusion in Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People In the World in 2012. And we haven't even begun talking about the books she's written.
Patchett has penned six novels and five works of nonfiction. Her books have been both New York Times Notable Books and bestsellers, and have been translated into 30 languages. She won the Orange Prize for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner award in 2002 for Bel Canto, about a group of terrorists and their hostages, living in a house together for several months. Her 2011 State of Wonder, which the New York Times' Maureen Corrigan described as "a masterpiece of a novel about the awful price of love and the terror of its inevitable loss," explores the heart of the Amazonian delta, where a pharmaceutical researcher is sent to discover what happened to a field team that has been silent for two years.
Her most recent book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, is a collection of heart-rending essays that the author describes as "made from the things that were at hand—writing and love, work and loss. I may have roamed in my fiction, but this work tends to reflect a life lived closer to home." Patchett fearlessly examines the romantic relationships of her life—those that failed, and those that endure—caretaking for her elderly grandmother, her early career challenges (as a freelance writer for Seventeen, Gourmet, GQ and New York Times Magazine), and what the book, in all of its hold-it-in-your-hand physical glory, means to her.
Author! Author! presents Ann Patchett
7 pm, Friday, March 6
Bend High, 230 NE 6th St.