Harper and I made sure to hobble in early. I alerted the strangers who joined us at our table that there was a dog underneath, and when one of them lifted the tablecloth to have a look, she said, “Oh, a black Lab. How sweet!” My Seeing Eye dog is a male yellow Labrador Retriever. She’d mistaken the behemoth black cast on my foot for Harper.
We were at the Women’s Athletic Club on Michigan Avenue to hear my fellow Bark contributor Ann Patchett (best-selling author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty) talk about her highly anticipated new novel 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 the city’s 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.”
The author 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!”
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We all had a chance to meet her challenge right away: The Book Stall, an independent bookstore in Winnetka, Ill., had copies of State of Wonder for sale at the presentation. Ann Patchett couldn’t help but admire Harper as he guided me to the table to have her sign a copy for us. The future bookstore owner and I chatted about our work for The Bark as she signed. (Among other contributions, Ms. Patchett wrote the introduction to Dog Joy: The Happiest Dogs in the Universe.) “I love that magazine!” she proclaimed loudly enough for other fans in line to hear. “And I don’t just write for The Bark, I read it, too!”
Before picking up Harper’s harness to have him guide me away from the table, I told Ann Patchett 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.”
Guess I’ll have to buy the audio version once it comes out. I know where I'll order it from, too: Our local independent bookstore!