Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012

Ann Patchett

My friend the writer Ann Patchett is a woman of wisdom, determination, generosity and courage. Her readers have probably always suspected this. Ann's moral code, after all, thrums throughout her novels — where characters are often called upon to summon up their decency, take a bold action and shift forever some stale old paradigm of power.

Well, sometimes that happens in Ann's actual life too.

It certainly happened last year when Ann, 48, realized that her hometown of Nashville (pop. 600,000) no longer had a single proper bookstore. As with everywhere else, the big-box chains had driven out the independent booksellers, and then had driven out the big-box chains, and Nashville ("the Athens of the South") had become a literary desert. Appalled, Ann fought back by opening Parnassus Books with co-founder Karen Hayes. It's a sturdy little brick-and-mortar oasis of original thinking, author events, book-club meetings and children's story hours.

Nashville is grateful, but the world watches carefully, wondering: Will this endeavor actually work? Can one determined soul really make a dent against the dehumanizing wall of humongous corporate progress?

Don't worry; I already know how this story ends, because I know the author well. Trust me — Ann Patchett will see to it that the good guys win.

Gilbert is the best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love