Meeting the lovely Ann Patchett

Friday, May 17, 2013

I had the chance to see Ann Patchett speak last week and it was fantastic! She was the speaker for this year’s Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture and she was honored with the Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Literature Award.

I also stayed for the book signing which followed the talk and got my two favorite books by her (Bel Canto and State of Wonder) signed. We had a chance to talk for a minute and she even took a quick picture with me. It’s definitely one of my absolute favorite author meetings I’ve even had.

Patchett talked a bit about her bookstore Parnassus Books in Nashville. She emphasized the importance of supporting local bookstores and not just saying you enjoy them and then buying the book on Amazon because it’s cheaper. I’m dying to visit her store in Nashville and I’m hoping to make a trip there later this year. I also completely agree with her point about putting your money where your mouth is. I think that’s true for the arts as well as bookstores. Yes, it costs money to buy a book new or go to the theatre, but you’re supporting something important when you buy you ticket!

She said she’s traveled to dozens of libraries all over the country and Indianapolis’ downtown branch in one of the most beautiful she has ever scene. As you guys have heard me say before, I definitely agree! She also gave the entire St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V! It made sense in the context of the talk and it was absolutely incredible! She made some important points about there not being a magic muse who writes her novels for her. It’s hard work and it’s not easy, but it’s something you sit down and do every day if you’re a writer.

"If you love books, you want to push them on people, so owning an independent bookstore is the best!"

(Just laughing with Ann Patchett, no big deal)

If you’ve read State of Wonder you no doubt remember a certain intense scene with an anaconda. She described her actual experience on a small 15 foot boat on a river in the Amazon. One of the men in the boat (not one of the tour guides, just a passenger) pulled at giant anaconda out of the river and into their boat. He kept it in the boat for 20 minutes, describing everything about it while it slowly wrapped itself around his body. They eventually pulled it off him and put it back in the water, but she said it was absolutely terrifying and in that moment the scene from the book was born. She later found out the guy was a snake expert and they became friends, but can you imagine witnessing that?!?

During the Q & A session someone asked her for book recommendations and she suggested the following books:

1) Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn
2) Casual Vacancy (this one was interesting because she said she hasn't read the Harry Potter series!)
3) Independent People by Halldór Laxness (Apparently a book about Icelandic sheep and coffee)
4) The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
5) Old Filth by Jane Gardam
6) The All of It by Jeannette Haien 

Photos by a kind new book-loving friend I met in line.


Sandy Nawrot said...

The two of you could be related, based on that picture! I'm so envious. I loved State of Wonder, but haven't read Bel Canto (yet). We never get any good authors down here in Orlando, probably because we have no good bookstores (unless you count B&N).

Anonymous said...

What a great experience! She was on The Colbert Report to talk about State of Wonder and her book store a couple of years ago, and I just loved her. I bet she's even more wonderful in person!

JoAnn said...

I'm so jealous!! Have read all of Patchett's books... and will keep on reading anything she writes.

Interesting recommendations, too. Just picked up Old Filth at a book sale last weekend and The Patrick Melrose novels are on my wish list. It's been 10 years since I read Independent People... an excellent book, but very depressing. Need to investigate The All of It.

Thanks for this post.

Jeanne said...

I was building up a lot of respect for this author and how she lives her life, owning a bookstore, until you said she hadn't read Harry Potter. How much of a literary snob does one have to be to go around recommending a book an author isn't famous for over a series that I thought everyone on the planet had read by now?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - That's funny, the Huz thought it was a pic of me and my friend who looks similar. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Bel Canto if you read it! It's so good! Indy was down to almost no good bookstores until we got Indy Reads Books next year.

Heather - She is just so charming!

JoAnn - That's too funny! I
haven't even heard of most of the books she mentioned, but now I want to check them out.

Jeanne - I couldn't believe it either! It's hard to find a book lover who hasn't read HP. They don't know what they're missing.

Nikki Steele @ said...

How lovely! We're planning a major roadtrip and I'm terribly excited about visiting Parnassus in Nashville. Will certainly be one of the highlights of my trip!

I love that Patchett doesn't jive with the fairy wings approach to writing. Writing is work and, as she's said before, there's also no such thing as "writer's block", just as there isn't "doctor's block."

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - That's wonderful! You'll have to let me know how it is. I like her honestly too.

thecuecard said...

That's wonderful that you met and heard Ann Patchett speak. State of Wonder is quite a good read! I need to take her advice & spend only on local independent bookstores. cheers.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

thecuecard - It's hard advice to follow. I know things will be more expensive at those bookstores, but it's worth supporting them!

Jenners said...

COOL COOL COOL! You guys look like friends … or even sisters!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - I would love to be friends with her. Just from her talk you can tell she's incredibly witty.