Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

The Patchett-Seeger Connection

In an op-ed piece for The New York Times, Ann Patchett sings a ballad of bookstore survival

August 29, 2011 Poets are the literary artists who live and die by the use metaphor, but in an op-ed piece for The New York Times yesterday, novelist Ann Patchett manages to find some startling connections, too. It’s not every writer who can make a convincing case for the links between bookstores and a) periodic cicadas, b) platform shoes, c) Newt Gingrich, and d) Pete Seeger songs, but Patchett pulls it off, and all as part of an argument that bookstores are making a comeback, too:

Now when someone tells me a trend is dead, I think, no, probably just dormant.

Take bookstores, for example. With the demise of the Borders chain and the shaky footing of Barnes and Noble, one might be tempted to write off the whole business. But as one who spent her summer on a book tour, I would like to offer this firsthand report from the front lines: Americans are still reading books. Night after night after night I showed up in a different bookstore and people were there with their hardbacks. Sure, I signed a couple of iPad covers, Kindle covers. I’ve got no problem with that. But just because some people like their e-readers doesn’t mean we should sweep all the remaining paperbacks in a pile and strike a match. Maybe bookstores are no longer 30,000 square feet, but they are selling books.

To read the full essay, click here. Click here to read Chapter 16‘s interview with Patchett and her business partner, Karen Hayes, and here to read an interview with Patchett about State of Wonder.