Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Catching Up With Patchett

Nashville novelist Ann Patchett is in the news so often these days that it’s almost impossible to keep up

March 16, 2012 Here at Chapter 16, we like to post news of Tennessee authors—and authors who once lived in Tennessee—as the news occurs, one news item at a time, but that strategy has proved impossible with Ann Patchett, whose annus mirabilis bestows new mirabiles faster than we can keep up. Here’s the latest news for the Patron Saint of Independent Bookstores:

State of Wonder, in addition to being named to a number of best-of lists around the media, and in addition to remaining on bestseller lists for nine months and counting, has now been longlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize. The award, given annually to a novel written in English by a woman, is familiar to Patchett, of course: Bel Canto won the prize in 2002. This year’s shortlist will be announced on April 17, and the winner will be announced at the Royal Festival Hall in London on May 30. The prize carries a cash award of £30,000.

Bel Canto is in the news again for another reason, too: Chicago’s Lyric Theater has announced that Patchett’s 2011 novel is the basis for a new opera. Bel Canto the novel, published in 2001, is the story of terrorists who take over the home of the vice president of an unnamed South American country during a gala filled with international guests. Bel Canto the opera will open in December 2015, a collaboration between Peruvian composer Jimmy Lopez and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. Soprano Danielle de Niese will sing the leading role.

Fans of Parnassus Books will no doubt get the inside scoop on the world premier, thanks to the fact that Patchett has launched a monthly blog on the Parnassus website. Designed to be primarily a way to recommend books she loves, the blog so far has also featured posts that describe the life of a traveling writer, what it’s like behind the scenes at The Colbert Report, and Patchett’s joy in Edith Pearlman’s National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. The Pearlman post was a bonus—Patchett had already published her March entry when the NBCC awards were announced—which is a hopeful sign for readers who love Patchett’s essays as much as her fiction: Patchett, who is famously averse to social media and who carries a cell phone only when she travels, may find she likes the immediacy of blogging after all.