Entertainment, On A High Note

Local author profile: Ann Patchett

As we begin a new series of highlighting the best Nashville has to offer, we turn our attention to the authors who call Nashville home. First and foremost would be award-winning author Ann Patchett, whose six novels and three books of non-fiction have earned her a beloved status among both Nashvillians and the world. Regularly ranked on The New York Times bestseller list, her works of fiction range from the 1992 novel “The Patron Saint of Liars” to 2011’s “State of Wonder.”

Local author and bookstore owner Ann Patchett at Time’s “Most Influential People in the World” event in 2012. PHOTO BY DAVID SHANKBONE

Local author and bookstore owner Ann Patchett at Time’s “Most Influential People in the World” event in 2012. PHOTO BY DAVID SHANKBONE

Patchett, who has lived in Nashville since the age of six, is one of the few Nashvillians who we can honestly say seems as proud to live here as we are to call her one of our own. When Nashville’s beloved bookstore Davis-Kidd closed in 2010, Patchett took matters into her own hands and opened Parnassus Books, along with co-owner Karen Hayes, a veteran of the publishing industry.

Together, they have crafted one of the best parts of Nashville, in our humble opinion. Parnassus Books, for everyone who can recall their seventh-grade Greek mythology classes, is named for Mount Parnassus, the mythological home of Dionysus, Orpheus and the Muses. It came to be known in mythological lore as the home of poetry, literature and learning – an apt name for what has quickly established itself as Nashville’s nerve center of the written word.

Regularly hosting author events and other literary functions where they partner with other august institutions as the Nashville Public Library, Parnassus also is the center for popular and well-regarded book clubs and even has a program they call First Editions Club, where they hand select a book monthly and deliver it to your door as a signed, first edition.

Patchett’s writing includes other forms in addition to her award-winning works of fiction. Her friendship with the late poet Lucy Grealy was described in her book “Truth and Beauty: A Friendship” in 2004, and her most recent memoir, 2013’s “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” tells Patchett’s own stories of opening Parnassus, enduring Nashville’s floods and even her love of her dear departed dog, Rosie. Fans of her work will tell you that it as impressive to see into her heart and mind through her non-fiction as it is to see her craft and imagination in her novels.

Nashville’s beloved Ann Patchett at the 2014 Miami Book Fair International. PHOTO BY RODRIGO FERNANDEZ

Nashville’s beloved Ann Patchett at the 2014 Miami Book Fair International. PHOTO BY RODRIGO FERNANDEZ

If you can’t quite tell that we are a fan of Patchett’s, where else could you find someone who has experienced such a breadth of life as Patchett has? For she is someone who has braved the rigors of the exams necessary to become a Los Angeles police officer as her father before her, as Patchett describes in “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” and is the daughter of noted author Jeanne Ray, herself a nurse for decades here in Nashville.

When it comes to academic prowess, Patchett is no slouch. A graduate of Nashville’s St. Bernard Academy and Sarah Lawrence College in Massachusetts, Patchett also attended the impressive Iowa Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa and the Fine Arts Work Center in Massachusetts, which is the birthplace of her first novel.

As yet another feather in her cap, Patchett’s works have also graced stage and screen. Her first novel “The Patron Saint of Liars” was turned into a film of the same name in 1998.

More recently, her award-winning novel “Bel Canto,” which earned Patchett the PEN/Faulkner Award, was adapted for the stage and premiered recently in Chicago at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which runs through January 17. It has been met with positive reviews, being described by The New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini as “grimly compelling.”

While the world agrees that Patchett is an author we should all celebrate, only Nashville can say that she is one of our own. For that we are both proud and grateful.