Nashville's New Lit Stop
The neighborhood bookstore isn't finished yet
Opening an old-fashioned bookstore in the age of the iPad ranks somewhere between brave and foolhardy. But that’s what Ann Patchett, the best-selling author of Bel Canto, has just done in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood. “Print isn’t dead,” Patchett says, days after finishing the tour for her latest novel, State of Wonder. “This notion that, just because something else has come along, we all say, ‘Oh, print is dead. It’s all over, we should now throw the books away’ is crazy.”
She needn’t look beyond her own mailbox for proof. Lately, it’s been crammed with résumés from Nashville residents hoping to work at Patchett’s newly opened Parnassus Books. “People I don’t know, that I have no idea how they know where I live, are saying, ‘I’ll work in your store for free. I would do anything to work in a bookstore.’ ” They seem to get that there’s more to a neighborhood bookstore than just commerce.
Richard Howorth, the owner of Oxford, Mississippi’s famous Square Books, can recount all the hard parts—the nickel-and-dime counting, the promotional tasks, the constant dusting. “It’s retail,” he insists. But he also says bookselling is tremendously rewarding. If he wasn’t worried about sounding too romantic, he’d even call it magical.