Archive for June 23rd, 2011

The patron saint of bookstores

One of my table mates was kind enough to help me meet Ann Patchett, and another was good enough to take this photo.

Mike dropped Harper and me off at the Women’s Athletic Club on Michigan Avenue this morning to hear my fellow Bark magazine contributor Ann Patchett give a presentation. It was my first outing alone with Harper since they put that Flintstone cast on my foot, and we made sure to hobble in early. I alerted the strangers who joined us at our table that there was a dog underneath, and one of them lifted the tablecloth to have a look. “Oh, a black lab!” she exclaimed. “How sweet!” It didn’t dawn on me until later: She’d mistaken the behemoth cast on my foot for Harper.

Ann Patchett, the best-selling author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty was there to talk about her new book State of Wonder. As her talk came to a close, she let us in on her next project: opening an independent bookstore.

“I live in Nashville, and we don’t have any bookstores,” she said, lamenting that their independent bookstore, Davis-Kidd, went under last December. The Borders store in Nashville closed a few months later. “It’s weird to have a book and not have a place to sell it in your hometown.”

She paired up with former Random House sales rep Karen Hayes in January, and the two of them hope to open Parnassus Books in Nashville before Christmas. Karen will be doing most of the work putting the store together (“She knows which cash registers to buy, stuff like that”). Ann plans to use her author cred to bring attention to her new store, and, in turn, to independent bookstores everywhere. “I heard you all sigh when I said we didn’t have a bookstore in Nashville,” she told us. “And you cheered when I said we were going to open one of our own.” She challenged us all to do our part, too. “Now get out there to your own independent bookstore and buy a book!”

We all had a chance to meet her challenge right away: The Book Stall, an independent bookstore in Winnetka, had copies of State of Wonder on hand. The Wonder-ful strangers at our table teamed up to help me pick up copies for my friends Jenny and Jill, and Ann Patchett couldn’t help but admire Harper as he guided me to the table to have her sign them. The future bookstore owner and I chatted about our work for The Bark and I told her how much I enjoyed the audio version of Truth and Beauty –  she recorded it herself.

She poo-pooed the compliment. “Hope Davis, you know, the actress? She reads this one,” she said, drumming her fingers on the signed hardcover in my hand. “She’s really good.” I’ll have to buy the audio version once it comes out, I guess. You know who I’ll order it from, dontcha? Our local independent bookstore: Sandmeyer’s!


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