“Nashvillians woke up one morning and found that we no longer had a bookstore”

…and Ann Patchett’s “secret was that [she] did not much miss those mall-size Gargantuas.” So she set out, more or less on impulse, to recreate the kind of bookstore experience that she did miss: a cozy space with carefully curated shelves and employees who double as a personal recommendation system. Partnered with Karen Hayes, a former Random House sales rep, Patchett set out to open Nashville’s newest independent bookstore, despite numerous warnings (and her own fears) that “the bookstore is dead.”

Her article in The Atlantic, recounting her experience of the precipitous process, is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Highlights: her eager gleaning of bookstore know-how during the signing tour that coincided with Parnassus Books’ incubation period; and the narrative she began to craft, with increasing conviction, during interviews: that the moment of the small independent bookstore is now.

And whether or not Parnassus’ success is replicable, it’s still vicariously thrilling to read about Patchett’s realization of her ability to accomplish every reader’s ultimate social joy: “I could talk strangers into reading books that I love.”

Go to:

Ann Patchett: bio and works reviewed
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (2001): review by Emera

The long good-bye

Say farewell to Borders: “Borders to shut down for good after deal collapses.”

In a twist or knell or something or other, I received what will theoretically be my last-ever package from Borders yesterday, too.

Any Borders reminiscences to share? I just remembered that Borders was the first legit bookstore in my vicinity to stock manga; prior to that I’d scoured E. B. Games and, occasionally, Toys ‘R’ Us, to pick up single, frequently battered issues of Pokémon, Digimon, and some horrifically translated Gundam Wing. I think my first high-intensity exposure to manga (lots of it! all in one place! in a bookstore!) was a long, dazed afternoon in a Borders spent flipping through, among others, a CLAMP series that seemed really cryptic and creepy at the time, probably partly because the first volume was missing. I’m not going to say what series it was, just to preserve the imagined mystique.

Edit: This article does a great job of explaining what Borders’ closing will mean for consumers, publishers, and authors.

All-new and unexpurgated

My favorite book-news of late! An uncensored edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray has been published, based on Wilde’s original typescript. Some previously snipped and pruned bits: Basil Hallward’s more explicit effusions towards Dorian (“It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend”); a sinuously creepy/sexually charged episode in which a stranger pursues Dorian in the street, “passing and repassing him many times;” references to Dorian’s “mistresses;” and other elements that might offend “an innocent woman.”


Ever wondered how all those prodigious sellers on Amazon actually get their books? A Slate contributor unloads his guilt regarding his current profession: trawling used-book sales with a barcode-reading PDA in search of books that can turn a profit online. It’s a pretty depressing read, but says some interesting things about bookselling, reading, and bibliophile culture.

“The book merchant of the high-cultural imagination is a literate compleat and serves the literate. He doesn’t need a scanner, because he knows more than the scanner knows. I fill a different niche—I deal in collectible or meaningful books only by accident. I’m not deep, but I am broad. My customer is anyone who needs a book that I happen to find and can make money from.”

“When I work with my scanner and there’s someone else shopping near me who wants to read books, I feel that my energy is all wrong—high-pitched, focused narrowly in the present, and jealous. Someone browsing through books does it with a diffuse, forgetful curiosity, a kind of open reckoning that she learned from reading.”

(emphasis mine, just because I liked the observation so much.)


And my silly overlapping-fandom squee for the week: Cat Valente and Ursula Vernon briefly discuss an aviating capybara.

– E