I always celebrate the arrival of a new book by Ann Patchett. It was no surprise to me to see a Monitor reviewer call her latest, “State of Wonder,” the must-read novel of the summer. But pleasure in her latest release might be eclipsed by pleasure at her latest endeavor: a bookstore.
The author became something of a household name for her 2002 novel "Bel Canto" but had already been a readers’ favorite for years, creating quietly lovely, original works like “The Patron Saint of Liars” and “The Magician’s Assistant.” She’s spent most of her life in Nashville, a city where she’s had a low profile. “When you say you're a writer in Nashville, they ask, 'What kind of music?” she once said.
But there are advantages to living among the people who have known you since childhood. As Patchett’s been recounting in interviews on her book tour,
a frame shop where she has been a customer since high school asked her if they should stock “State of Wonder.” They made the offer because, sadly, Nashville's bookstores – from big-box chains to the 30-year-old Davis-Kidd bookstore – have been shutting down.
“It’s very weird to have a book coming out without a bookstore,” Patchett told The Tennessean. “When Davis-Kidd closed, I thought, ‘I don’t want to live in a city without a bookstore.’ ” So according to Bookpage, Patchett says she’s teaming up with a Random House sales rep named Karen Hayes who had already been planning to launch an indie bookstore in Nashville. No word on how involved Patchett will be in day-to-day operations, but hearing her voice light up when she talks about the venture leaves no doubt that it’s a personal passion.
As with Patchett’s fictional moves, the story comes with a little bit of serendipity: She told the Tennessean that she had once applied for a summer job with Davis-Kidd, the bookstore whose closure got her thinking about a bookstore of her own. They turned her down, preferring employees with more experience.
Hopefully, by now, all her years on the other end of the reading experience will count as work study.
Rebekah Denn is a Monitor contributor.