Last night’s grand opening of Parnassus Books lived up to the months of anticipation:
There was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth this past year when Nashville lost, in rapid succession, its longtime independent bookseller, Davis-Kidd, and then saw its Borders stores summarily shuttered. That’s when local literary superhero Ann Patchett and her business partner Karen Hayes announced their plan to open a new indie bookstore (with an appropriately Greek moniker), rescuing the so-called Athens of the South from literary desertification.
Parnassus Books, named for Mt. Parnassus (mythological home of the Muses), opened last night to the kind of classed-up, subdued fanfare you’d expect of Nashville’s men and women of letters. The cheek-by-jowl crowd was adorned with a preponderance of professorial sweaters, chic eyeglasses, and bow ties, with the usual literary suspects on hand: authors Patchett and Alice Randall, and music writer/author/NPR contributor Craig Havighurst, to name a few.
The crowd fell silent when Patchett climbed onto a chair to deliver her thanks. “I’m not emotionally a very forthcoming person,” she said, resplendent in a cranberry-red sheath dress. “But I love you all tonight!”
It was one of those nights when love seemed to suffuse the room: gratitude-love for Patchett and Hayes; admiration-love for the many name-tagged authors sprinkled about the room, glad-handing their fans; and most of all, word-love from misty-eyed book nerds (self included), happily paging through novels, memoirs, and history tomes—browsing, sampling, discovering. The very thing you can’t do via Amazon.
The question is this: now that we self-described book lovers have gotten what we asked for—a well-curated gathering place for books, authors, and the folks who love them, will we follow up by opening our wallets? Because it’s going to take more than a roomful of love to keep Parnassus up and running.
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