Crazy talk

Crazy talk (the bookstore edition) | Modern Mrs Darcy

Remember how I said we should talk Crazy Talk more often? I’ve been talking plenty of it lately (though nobody’s talking about buying a farm this time).

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?

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  1. Jamie says:

    Most recently our crazy talk consisted of moving to New Hampshire to build a tiny house and join the Free State Project. Oh, was it tempting!!

    Ultimately, though, we realized it was (a) not wise at the moment, and (b) more a response to work and life situations happening right now than an actual desire. So we refocused on what we can do where we are to address to needs and gaps in our lives that made that crazy talk so appealing – are we’re much happier for it!

    (Also, I’m pretty sure that every bookstore should have a couple part-time dogs. Every coffee shop, too. A couple businesses in our town have greeter dogs, and they are universally awesome at what they do and beloved by all!)

  2. Keely says:

    I too talk about opening a bookstore, mainly because of Kathleen Kelly and mainly because of a conversation my husband and I had after my first child was born and I was having my first identity crisis. 🙂 Now my crazy talk includes writing a memoir.
    Also- I have that picture hanging in my living room!

  3. carrie says:

    Our crazy talk includes living nomadically once the kiss are gone. Or opening a coffee shop. Which is crazy because being in retail or food service involves way too much work 😉

    This summer we’re heading to Nashville to scream on Dave Ramsey’s show so I am totally going to check out that bookstore!

  4. Opening a bookstore has been one of my daydreams as long as I can remember. Since we move every few years it will have to stay a dream for now, but I think that getting to help people find a book they will love is one of the things I loved most when I was a librarian 🙂

  5. Anne says:

    That’s fun crazy talk. 🙂 You know, you talk strangers into reading different books right here. I read The Lost Husband in the middle of the night and cried quite a bit. Good book!

  6. Corrie Anne says:

    Your dream bookstore sounds wonderful! My husband and I mostly crazy talk about living abroad for a few years. It’s crazy, but I know we’d do it in a heartbeat if the opportunity came up.

  7. Debra G says:

    Sounds delightful. By the way, you do talk strangers into reading books you love right on this blog. I know I’ve been inspired by it.

      • Bonnie-Jean says:

        Definitely true. I’ve read a stack of great books this year that I would never have come across if not for you. Unfortunately there are many more that you’ve recommended that I just can’t yet get in my library in suburban Sydney Australia. Have got them on an Amazon wishlist!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Love your Crazy Talk! Love books! Love book stores! My dream job is managing a book store. I can totally relate to what Patchett says about the pure joy in telling others what they should read. Although, I already do that. Haha. We have a lovely local book store that does so much. They have an artist come in to teach art classes for kids, tons of author events, kid’s tea parties, a coffee shop, book clubs, writer’s groups, and more. I probably dream it to be more fun and glamorous than it really is, but it’s still my dream.

  9. My town has a barnes and noble and two tiny used book stores – the combination makes me absolutely YEARN for the independent bookstore that I was working in where I met my husband. It was easily as large as a B&N and had a restaurant inside where you could go for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. I would love to open a book store someday but I’d actually rather be the manager / clerk and have someone else be the money bags behind the operation. What I’ll probably actually do is get a job at the B&N or one of the used book stores in town.

    When we talk crazy talk in my home, it’s usually along the lines of “what if we moved to Europe….”

  10. Shelly says:

    I was just telling my husband the other day that I want a house in the middle of nowhere, where we can raise chickens, plant a huge vegetable garden, and we can live off the land. This is a stark contrast to reality. Our family of twelve currently lives in a row home in the city with a yard the sizeof a shoebox. Sigh. Someday…

  11. Shelly says:

    I just wanted to add that my husband has recently been talking about moving to Louisiana, which does fit in with my dream. The only problem is we know nothing about Louisiana, other than that it’s easier to homeschool there than PA. We also have no family there and don’t know anyone. I honestly think he only wants to move there because of Duck Dynasty. I’m not even kidding.

  12. Leslie says:

    Love your crazy talk and I guess, gal, it doesn’t sound so so crazy to me. Maybe that is what is crazy. Craig and I have been having lots of crazy talks around here and I think they are good for the soul. Here’s to you for getting us all to think a little crazy and outside of our boxes. Want you to open that book store!!!

  13. Leigh Kramer says:

    Oh my gosh, I love this idea! You should do it and then I’ll move to Louisville and manage it. I cannot wait to take you to Parnassus. You’ll fall in love and it’ll add fuel to the crazy talk.

  14. Lynn D says:

    After reading “The Bookstore Strikes Back,” (Thank you very much for that, by the way), it seems unfortunate that when one clicks on the link for “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” the link takes you to Amazon instead of Parnassas. Not judging, just saying.

  15. Jackie says:

    I say, keep talking your Crazy Talk: create a vision for what your bookstore would be like, and then go for crowdfunding!

    Or, just keep your book recommendations happening here on this blog!

  16. Karlyne says:

    We have always wanted to have a used-book store which included a hardware store, a bakery and espresso shop, and a nice big empty room, preferably with a stage, for ballet/music lessons. Why not?!?

  17. I indulge in crazy talk all the time! I’ve always had in the back of my mind that I’d like to one day open a store, selling a mix of new and vintage and antique house-related stuff. It will probably never happen, due to my dislike of working on Saturdays, and my lack of the hundreds of thousands necessary to start it up. And my 50 other crazy-talk dreams.

  18. Love Ann Patchett! Bel Canto and her own story in Truth and Beauty are favorites. I have her new book on request at the library!! Love you blog– finding new things to read and love your point of view… God Bless.

  19. I LOVE crazy talk! I think it’s an Idealist thing – I can form this perfect vision in my head of just how things should be. For example I recently completely revamped the public school system in my head. And my favorite day dream right now is of buying a small town that really is for sale near where we live and moving in all my family and friends.
    The interesting thing about crazy talk, I think, is that it’s such a window into what you really want out of life. I may not be able to fulfill the crazy fantasy of buying my own town, but I can be more intentional building a community which is really what I want.

  20. MJ says:

    I managed a retail bookstore for many years, and I ALWAYS thought I could do it better if I had my own, so if any of your crazy-talking bookstore-loving commenters need some pointers, they can call me 😉 However, my current crazy talk with my husband involves having just enough money to move somewhere kind of remote, maybe out west-ish, where we could garden a little, putter with old cars and woodworking, I could write, he could tinker with computers, we could take long walks and just slow down.

    • Karlyne says:

      MJ, we bought ten acres last year just to slow down and putter on and eventually live on full time after retirement. Our nearest neighbors, who are dear friends, have a woodworking shop that they are just finishing up (uh, it’s bigger than the small house I’m planning!) and raise Cream Retrievers (I’m sure they have a different name…). It’s a great walking area and the nearest town is just a mile away. 450 people. Hooray! The next town (400 people) is 22 miles away, so my bookshop/bakery/coffee shop/hardware store will be small and require only the occasional grandchild to man! Oh, and we’re out West – Idaho to be exact!

  21. Stacey says:

    Bookstore for me too! And I have had Patchett’s book sitting on my nightstand for a few weeks now. Thanks to this post, I just read The Bookstore Strikes Back and loved it! Off to read a few more essays before the day gets ahead of me!

  22. Ginger says:

    I visited Nashville last month and simply insisted to the husband that we visit Parnassus Books, after having read this article (I especially liked the part where she talked about how the name was selected).

    I was surprised that it was tucked away in an unlikely strip mall of sorts, tucked right beside a Moe’s grill and a nail salon. But inside, it was warm and organized (with starry twinkle lights). Just like the kind of place Kathleen Kelly would have worked. I bought way too many books and had a lovely chat with the charming British salesman about Renee Fleming.

    For my crazy talk, I had wild ideas that that would be the one day that Ann Patchett would be in store, and we’d become fast friends, and she’d insist on my sending her my (unfinished) novel manuscript, love it, become my mentor, and encourage me to finish what would become a bestselling novel.

    I love this crazy talk game!

  23. Ginger says:

    P.S. I always have this idea that in heaven, we’ll get to live all our “Crazy Talk” for a millennium or two each — I’ll be a novelist for a thousand years or so, a ballerina for another hundred, perhaps an architect, an astronaut…

  24. Marie Reinhart says:

    I have always longed to own a bookstore/cafe. Crazy? Yes! But this lover of books & coffee can dream……..

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