Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

An Especially Good Summer

Ann Patchett has been in the news again—and again—but that’s not why she’s happy

August 8, 2012 At Chapter 16, we’re committed to highlighting Tennessee authors in the news, but if we were to report on every Ann Patchett headline, there would be almost no time left to report on any other writer in the state. Patchett’s amazing year has now stretched into a second amazing year: she has a new feature in The Guardian, an opera based on her novel Bel Canto has just gained major funding, and she has racked up more awards and acclaim, among other triumphs. Here’s a roundup of the latest:

In an essay in The Guardian called “My Hero,” she writes about Edward St. Aubyn and his Patrick Melrose novels. Patchett read all five of them in as many days, writing, “The Melrose novels have inspired me, changed me, and left me wholly dissatisfied with everything I have read since.”

Patchett, of course, is a literary hero herself: at Book Expo America last month, she won the “Most Engaging Author” award and quoted the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V in her address to the American Bookseller’s Association, drawing a standing ovation from her own “band of brothers.”

But it’s not only the literary world that’s enthralled with the Patron Saint of Independent Bookstores: Forbes magazine recently ran an article about “3 Career Lessons from the Women of Time’s 100,” holding Patchett up as an example for small-business owners of the importance of noting a need and filling that gap.

Bel Canto, Patchett’s 2001 novel about a terrorist takeover of the home of a South American vice president, is back in the news after the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave a gift of two million dollars to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. A portion of this grant will go toward making the Mellon Foundation lead sponsor of the Lyric Opera’s adaptation of Bel Canto, set to open in December 2015. Bel Canto isn’t Patchett’s only novel back in the news. The Audie Awards, given for the best audiobooks, recently honored Hope Davis for her reading of Patchett’s State of Wonder. And when The New York Times asked eight experts to weigh in on writers who should have won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction this year, 2009 Orange Prize nominee Laila Lalami made the case for State of Wonder.

Finally, if you’ve never had the chance to hear Patchett talk about her own writing, check out the front page of the Parnasus Books website for a video of Patchett’s address to the Parnassus book club, and then click over to her blog for early word about her next book, the one she’s writing now:

In case you were wondering, I’m having an especially good summer. My mother, Jeanne Ray (You know her novel, Calling Invisible Women, was published in May, and that it’s very funny, right? We’ve been over this already.) had a shoulder replacement a month ago and she is doing fantastically well, but I didn’t know that she would do so well and so I had cleared my calendar for the entire summer in order to be a good and helpful daughter. What this means is that I’ve been home for a long stretch for the first time in I don’t know when. Even when it was 109 degrees outside, I was happy. Here’s the basic formula: staying home + everyone thinking I’m taking care of my mother + my mother being fine = writing.

When that book hits shelves, believe us, Chapter 16 will be ready for the next wave of euphoria Ann Patchett inspires all over the literary world.