Ann Patchett forever endeared herself to Bostonians with her 2007 novel, Run, a lyrical take on the Kennedys and crisp New England winters. The Guggenheim fellow and PEN award winner has long dazzled readers in search of complicated characters in extraordinary situations. Her latest novel, State of Wonder (HarperCollins), follows a Minnesota research scientist on an epic quest in the heart of the Amazon. I called Patchett at her home in Nashville.
Ann Patchett reads at Porter Square Books on June 9 at 7 pm
I SEE YOU'RE READING AT PORTER SQUARE BOOKS.
I used to live in Cambridge, and I'm always happy to go back to Porter Square. I lived right across from Radcliffe Yard when I was at the Bunting Institute, which is now called the Radcliffe Institute. It was 17 years ago. I had written a proposal to write Taft, and I finished it three days before I arrived at the Bunting and I had nothing to do.
When I first finish a book, I am always at a complete loss of what I'm going to do next. My time at Radcliffe was spent swimming and running and going to classes. I had a good time, but I really wasted my time. I'm not sure I could've been more disciplined, because when I finish a book, I am so out of book. The cupboard is bare.
WHERE ARE YOU IN THAT PROCESS NOW?
Let me tell you what I was doing this morning. Just before I talked to you, I was standing in a cafeteria that had been empty for three years, with giant flashlights and contractors because I think I'm going to open a book store. There's a woman that I'm working with, and I am helping her open one.
WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU OPENING A BOOK STORE?I think we've got to get back to a 3000-square-foot store and not 30,000. Amazon is always going to have everything — you can't compete with that. But there is, I believe, still a place for a store where people read books.
We had an independent [in Nashville]. . . . It was bought by Joseph-Beth Booksellers and it became part of their chain, then they moved it to the mall and it went bankrupt. A Borders closed a month later, and now we don't have a book store. I'm working with this woman, who is a Random House [sales] rep, who is determined to open a small independent book store in Nashville. I don't know if it's the craziest idea in the world, but I cannot live in a city without a book store. It is so weird to have a book coming out when there are no book stores here.
SPEAKING OF BOOKS, YOUR NEW ONE IS ABOUT ETERNAL FERTILITY. WHAT A NIGHTMARE!
While I was writing this book, I did some speaking engagements. At the end, somebody always asks, "What are you working on?" So I tell them — it's set in the Amazon, there's a tribe of women that have eternal fertility. The audience always gasps in horror. I always say, "Yeah, it's a horror novel." What could possibly be worse?
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