Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby


Nashville writers react to the news that Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes are planning to open a new bookstore

When bestselling novelist Ann Patchett announced that she and a business partner, former Random House sales rep Karen Hayes, would soon be opening a new bookstore in Nashville, the city’s writers reacted with joy:

Tracy Barrett, author of the young-adult novel, King of Ithaka: I’m thrilled at the possibility of a new bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Nashville, especially one founded by a book lover. A knowledgeable bookseller can guide a reader in choosing the right book—a service you can’t get online—and a bookstore is a logical place for book-signings, book-launch parties, and other events where authors can meet their readers and vice versa. And since Ms. Patchett is a Nashvillian, I hope she’ll promote local authors!

Poet Kate Daniels, author of A Walk in Victoria’s Secret: Unbelievably exciting! Nashville is so fortunate to have Ann living here. Her generosity is only matched by her exquisite prose.

David Dark, author of the nonfiction book, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything: I’m awfully grateful to hear this news. I’m old enough to remember when Davis-Kidd first opened, and the mere fact of a space like that is a culturally crucial presence within any community. Sounds to me like Nashville’s about to get its soul back.

Novelist Robert Hicks, author of A Separate Country: If I wasn’t the first, I was pretty close to the first employee Karen Davis and Thelma Kidd hired when they were opening Davis-Kidd. Those were heady times for a bookstore in Nashville, already a city with a long and storied history of publishing and book selling. While the emergence of Davis-Kidd was to eventually mark the loss of smaller, older bookstores, it was also the beginning of a new age for book-lovers in Nashville.

Now thirty years later, how the mighty have fallen. Nashville is left without a significant seller of new books. It is shameful. The blow is obvious for those of us who are scribblers, but in truth it is a mark against the entire city—writers, readers and non-readers alike. A bookstore is an essential element of what makes a city great.

Maybe, as Karen Hayes and Ann Patchett venture out to remedy our loss, we the readers will have learned our lesson this time around. Maybe we will envision their store as not merely a meeting place and place to while away the hours, but also as a source for our books, shunning the temptation to patronize Internet sources or grocery-stores savings.

We can no longer pretend that we lost Davis-Kidd simply because a faceless, faraway corporation stole our bookstore. When folks began to lament the loss, I heard countless stories of the loss of children’s hours, of author events, of a meeting place, but few spoke of their loss of the only place they would have ever bought a book.

Karen and Ann are moving forward with their vision. I am grateful. But, in the end, their success will rest with the rest of us.

Poet Mark Jarman, author of Bone Fires: From what I have heard, they have in mind a bookstore like the former Mills Bookstore in Hillsboro Village. That would certainly be welcome, wherever they decide to put it.

Novelist Lorraine Lopez, author of The Realm of Hungry Spirits: It’s a shame, even an embarrassment, to live in a city as culturally rich as Nashville and not to have a good bookstore in reasonable driving distance. Books-a-million in west Nashville mainly provides backlist and remainders. It’s very limited in terms of new releases, and that is frustrating to readers and to writers. I have just had a book come out this spring only to realize that there is nowhere in Nashville, apart from the Vanderbilt University Bookstore, where (I hope) people can pick up a copy. If Ann undertakes this project, she will be doing a great service to the city!

Short-story writer Lydia Peelle, author of Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing: Can a city without good bookstores even call itself a city? No matter what you can buy online, there is no replacement for the community created by a great brick-and-mortar bookstore—nor for the sheer pleasure of browsing through the shelves on a Saturday afternoon. How lucky we are to have a literary superhero like Ann Patchett who, rather than sitting back and bemoaning our recent losses, is going to rally and do something positive for Nashville. It’s exciting news, and an inspiration to hear about her vision and her plan.

Novelist Adam Ross, author of Mr. Peanut: Nashville has yet another reason to be thankful for Ann Patchett. She and Karen Hayes have rescued the Nashville literary community from the edge of despair.

Biographer Eileen Sisk, author of Buck Owens: I wish Hayes and Patchett much success in this venture. I will support their store and will encourage other book lovers to do so as well. Nashville does need a good bookstore, especially for us dinosaurs who prefer to hold a book in our hands instead of a Kindle.

Science writer Holly Tucker, author of Blood Work: I was deeply saddened when Davis-Kidd closed; it left Nashville, a vibrant and diverse city, without a center of gravity for readers. I’m not sure how hands-on Ann plans to be, but a smaller store must curate their books. By that, I mean the store cannot be everything to everyone—rather, the personalities of the owners will come out through the books that they decide to put on their shelves. A store that does that—magnificently—well is Fountain Books in Richmond, Virginia. It’s a very small space, but I know that the books that I buy there are hand-picked and that the staff can talk about every single one of them knowledgeably. That expertise is invaluable. And it is exciting to think that this type of curating would be coming from an author as well-respected and as attuned to the Nashville community as Ann Patchett.

To read Chapter 16’s interview with Karen Hayes and Ann Patchett, click here. For more updates on Tennessee authors, please visit Chapter 16‘s News & Notes page, here.