I just finished Ann Patchett’s newly released nonfiction collection, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I expected to like it, because I adored her nonfiction Kindle single The Getaway Car. The collection contained just one piece I’d read before: the fabulous essay that ran in last year’s Atlantic, The Bookstore Strikes Back.
In the essay, Patchett tells the tale of how Nashville’s two bookstores–one indie, one Borders–suddenly closed, leaving her city without a bookstore, and how Patchett ended up opening Parnassus Books to fill the gap.
Now for the crazy part: reading about Ann Patchett’s store makes me want to open my own.
It’s never occurred to me to open a bookstore, despite my love for indies and Kathleen Kelly. But I could see it clearly when I got to this little bit where Patchett describes her bookstore’s exuberant grand opening:
All of us who worked there … had waited so long for customers that once they finally came, we could not stop telling them what we wanted them to read. One more joy I had failed to consider: I could talk strangers into reading books that I love.
But Patchett doesn’t usually count herself among the bookstore’s workers: she’s the money behind the operation. Someone else does the managing, and I suspect I’d be happy with a similar arrangement. Otherwise, I fear I’d become an exhausted, burned-out introvert who hides in the storage room when a new customer walks through the door. (That plan assumes I have a spare few hundred thousand sitting around, which I don’t. Sigh.)
There are other reasons it’s a terrible idea, like my city already as a bookstore. Several, actually. We could use a few more, but we don’t have the gaping void Parnassus filled in Nashville. I know there are plenty of reasons my bookstore wouldn’t work. But doesn’t this description sound delightful?
We’ve made a place where children can learn and play, where they can think those two things are one and the same. We have a piano. We have two part-time store dogs. We have authors who come and read; you can ask them questions, and they will sign your book.
I’m in love with my imaginary bookstore, so I’m not ready to have my bubble burst just yet. I’m going to stick with the Crazy Talk just a bit longer, and put a date on the calendar to visit Nashville.
In case you can’t tell how I feel about This is the Story of a Happy Marriage: it’s a wonderful collection and I highly recommend it. To get a taste for Patchett’s essays, start by reading The Bookstore Strikes Back online, for free.
What do you talk about when you talk Crazy Talk?