Ann Patchett Talks Busy Schedules, Indie Book Stores at Morrison Center 

Author Ann Patchett's room in the Grove Hotel was on the top floor, but that didn't stop the sound check for metal band The Degenerates rattling the windows. She said the noise was so intense, room service knocked on her door offering free earplugs.

"I thought, 'I can hardly wait to go to work tonight,'" she said.

Patchett spoke at The Morrison Center on Oct. 15, courtesy of The Cabin's Readings & Conversations series. It was the latest stop on her national tour for her latest novel, The Dutch House, which was released last month. The owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, and an internationally acclaimed bestselling author, she has broad experience on the performing and organizing ends of book tours, and onstage, she couldn't resist telling the oftentimes fraught story of The Dutch House's genesis through the lens of a bookseller.

Boiseans should be familiar with the latest vogue among touring authors: the author interview. That was the format for last week's Readings & Conversations author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose onstage interview was conducted by Mitchell S. Jackson. Patchett herself didn't have an interlocutor at Tuesday's event, but it is as an interviewer herself that The Dutch House was born, stymied, tossed out, rewritten, revised and ultimately sent to her editor.

"If you're being interviewed, it's delightful. You're very comfortable. It's very fun," she said. "I am the person in Nashville everyone wants to interview them."

Those writers may count themselves among the biggest names in contemporary literature—J.K. Rowling, Roxane Gay, Michael Chabon and Mary Norris, whom Patchett interviewed about her novel Greek to Me in the replica of the Parthenon in Nashville.

"I interviewed Mary Norris in the Parthenon at the feet of Athena. She was so verklempt that she cried," she said.

In more recent memory, her interviewees, some of them close friends, became her muses as she fought to write herself, with luminaries like Barbara Kingsolver and Kate DiCamillo helping her find clarity in the bewildering process of writing a novel, finding that perfect ending and breaking herself of the habit of writing picture books.

"Everything you see reminds you of a picture book. It's like a disorder," she said.

Through a combination of "novel therapy," inspiration and deadline pressure, The Dutch House made it to her publisher, and into the hands of hundreds of readers during her Boise stop. The book is new, but the throughline of her speech was the constance of indie bookstores, and gave continuous proofs of how central they are to the communities they serve.

"You don't take your family to Anthropologie after dinner. There's something there for everyone," she said. "It's much more about being than it is about shopping."


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