The Bookstore Strikes Back

The Bookstore Strikes Back – Ann Patchett – The Atlantic.

Parnassus Books

by Ann Patchett

Author opens an independent bookstore to fill a need.

Address: 3900 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215
Phone:(615) 953-2243

Two years ago, when Nashville lost its only in-town bookstores, the novelist Ann Patchett decided to step into the breach. Parnassus Books, which Patchett and two veteran booksellers envisioned, designed, financed, and manage, is now open for business and enjoying the ride.

In late February I am in my basement, which is really a very nice part of my house that is not done justice by the word basement. For the purposes of this story, let’s call it the Parnassus Fulfillment Center. I have hauled 533 boxed-up hardback copies of my latest novel, State of Wonder, from Parnassus, the bookstore I co-own in Nashville, into my car; driven them across town (three trips there and three trips back); and then lugged them down here to the Parnassus Fulfillment Center. Along with the hardbacks, I have brought in countless paperback copies of my backlist books as well. I sign all these books and stack them up on one enormous and extremely sturdy table. Then I call for backup: Patrik and Niki from the store, my friend Judy, my mother. Together we form an assembly line, taking orders off the bookstore’s Web site, addressing mailing labels, writing tiny thank-you notes to tuck inside the signed copies, then bubble-wrapping, taping, and packing them up to mail. We get a rhythm going, we have a system, and it’s pretty smooth, except for removing the orders from the Web site. What I don’t understand is why, no matter how many orders I delete from the list, the list does not get shorter. We are all work and no progress, and I’m sure something serious must be going wrong. After all, we’ve had this Web site for only a week, and who’s to say we know what we’re doing? “We know what we’re doing,” Niki says, and Patrik, who set up the Web site in the first place, confirms this. They explain to me that the reason the list isn’t getting any shorter is that orders are still coming in.

You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.

The reason I was signing and wrapping books in my basement is that more orders were coming in than the store could handle, and the reason so many orders were coming in is that, a few days before, I had been a guest on The Colbert Report. After a healthy round of jousting about bookstores versus Amazon, Stephen Colbert held a copy of my novel in front of the cameras and exhorted America to buy it from Amazon—to which I, without a moment’s thought (because without a moment’s thought is how I fly these days), shouted, “No! No! Not Amazon. Order it off ParnassusBooks.net, and I’ll sign it for you.” And America took me up on my offer, confirming once and for all that the “Colbert bump” is real. That explains how I got stuck in the basement, but fails to answer the larger question of what a writer of literary fiction whose “new” book was already nine months old was doing on The Colbert Report in the first place. Hang on, because this is where things get weird: I was on the show not because I am a writer but because I am a famous independent bookseller.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the story.

Two years ago, the city of Nashville had two bookstores. One was Davis-Kidd, which had been our much-beloved locally owned and operated independent before selling out to the Ohio-based Joseph-Beth Booksellers chain 15 years earlier. Joseph-Beth moved Davis-Kidd into a mall, provided it with 30,000 square feet of retail space, and put wind chimes and coffee mugs and scented candles in front of the book displays. We continued to call it our “local independent,” even though we knew that wasn’t really true anymore. Nashville also had a Borders, which was about the same size as Davis-Kidd and sat on the edge of Vanderbilt’s campus. (In candor, I should say that Nashville has some truly wonderful used-book stores that range from iconic to overwhelming. But while they play an important role in the cultural fabric of the city, it is a separate role—or maybe that’s just the perspective of someone who writes books for a living.) We have a Barnes & Noble that is a 20-minute drive out of town without traffic, a Books-A-Million on the western edge of the city, near a Costco, and also a Target. Do those count? Not to me, no, they don’t, and they don’t count to any other book-buying Nashvillians with whom I am acquainted.

In December 2010, Davis-Kidd closed. It was profitable, declared the owners from Ohio, who were dismantling the chain, but not profitable enough. Then, in May 2011, our Borders store—also profitable—went the way of all Borders stores. Nashvillians woke up one morning and found that we no longer had a bookstore.

The rest of the story at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/12/the-bookstore-strikes-back/309164/?single_page=true

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Photo finish Friday: “Super”

Ah, for those halcyon days when reporters wore ties, women walked at least six inches above the sidewalk, and phone booths, were, well, phone booths and you might never know...

Ah, for those halcyon days when reporters wore ties, women walked at least six inches above the sidewalk, and phone booths, were, well, phone booths and you might never know…

...when or where a big man in a red cape might appear from one. Compared to that, a Tardis is just a cheap, doctor's call box.

…when or where a big man in a red cape might appear from one. Compared to that, a Tardis is just a cheap, doctor’s call box.

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Haiku to you Thursday: “The wave”

Democracy waves /

empty hand behind the fence; /

Wall Street rings the bell.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Glimmer Train, very short fiction contest”

VERY SHORT FICTION guidelines

Details at: http://www.glimmertrain.com/veryshort.html

Glimmer Train

Glimmer Train

Open to all writers, this category welcomes stories that have not appeared in any print publication.

Maximum length: 3,000 words.

Held quarterly. Open to submissions in JANUARY, APRIL, JULY, and OCTOBER.
Next deadline: October 31.

Winners are announced in the April 1, July 1, October 1, and January bulletins, respectively, and contacted directly one week earlier.

Reading fee: $15 per story. Please, no more than three submissions per contest.

Prizes:

  • 1st place wins $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue.
  • 2nd place wins $500 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies).
  • 3rd place wins $300 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies).

Only stories sent in online are considered.

To apply, go to https://www.glimmertrainpress.com/writer/html/index2.asp

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Monday morning writing joke: “Head ache”

Q.: What type of performer is a zombie?

A.: A headliner

///

Q.: When a zombie leaves, what is she doing?

A.: She’s heading out-of-town.

///

Q.: What is the main feature a zombie looks for in a car?

A.: More head room.

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Map: The book that best represents each state — Vox

Map: The book that best represents each state – Vox.

We always love a good map. The below map might just seem to be another riff on “which book is most popular in each state” or something similar. But it’s actually much more interesting than that.

Take a look: http://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/10/17/6988649/literary-map-the-books-that-best-represent-each-state-united-states

The map is called The Literary United States, and it aims to plot out the “best books for every state.” It’s not based on research or polls or statistics. Instead, it was compiled by writers for BK Mag. Fortunately, they have great taste.

A literary map of the U.S.

A literary map of the U.S.

For instance, BK Mag chooses Zora Neale Hurston’s masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God to represent Florida. The novel is set in the Sunshine State, which makes it an obvious choice. The book selections, though, have to do with more than just setting.

The rest of the article at: http://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/10/17/6988649/literary-map-the-books-that-best-represent-each-state-united-states

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Brother, can you spare a change?

Anthony Horowitz to copy editor: “I’M NOT CHANGING THIS.”

The full article at: http://www.mhpbooks.com/anthony-horowitz-to-copyeditor-im-not-changing-this/

by Kirsten Reach

Nobody wants his conversation with a copy editor made public, but there’s a galley floating around from Harper at the moment that contains some accidental gems. Anthony Horowitz, author of a new Sherlock Holmes novel and the next James Bond novel, had a conversation in the margins of Moriarty that mistakenly made it into the advanced reader’s copies.

Sarah Lyall‘s report in The New York Times gives you a sense of her own reading experience as well as the dialogue between author and copy editor. What’s so brilliant about her telling is the way she manages to rationalize the notes at first, as some sort of meta-commentary:

“Moriarty’s” narrator, an American detective named Frederick Chase, is laying out the background to the story – how Holmes and Moriarty came to be at Reichenbach Falls and what is believed to have happened next. All of a sudden he switches to capitals. “NO NEED TO COMPLICATE THINGS HERE, I THINK,” the text announces. “WHAT I’VE WRITTEN IS BROADLY TRUE.”

Can the narrator be offering some meta-commentary on his own text? At first it seems so. But then it happens again. In a spot where Chase and a Scotland Yard inspector have found an important clue that seems to be an excerpt from a previous Holmes story written by Dr. Watson, things suddenly veer off-piste again. “IT MAKES NO SENSE FOR FREDERICK CHASE TO HAVE READ THE SIGN OF FOUR,” the text declares.

Of the six annotations, the highlight is one firm line from Horowitz: “I’M NOT CHANGING THIS.”

So what happened?

The rest of the story at: http://www.mhpbooks.com/anthony-horowitz-to-copyeditor-im-not-changing-this/

[Editor's note: Thank you Ashlie for the link to this article.]

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