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Archived Story

Author invests in books

Published 8:08pm Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ann Patchett visited Dowagiac on May 15, 2009, as the 37th Dogwood Fine Arts Festival author.
My daughter was a senior then.
The author from Nashville complimented Savannah on her name while signing a book.
As bookstores wither away, I read in the New York Times, the best-selling novelist came to the aid of her hometown, where she lives in a “spacious pink brick house,” by opening independent Parnassus Books, named after the sacred site in Greece associated with poetry, song and knowledge.
A brick-and-mortar bookseller is almost unheard of in an Amazon online world of e-books. The American Booksellers Association trade group lists 1,900 independent bookstore members, down from 2,400 in 2002.
“I have no interest in retail; I have no interest in opening a bookstore,” Patchett said. “But I also have no interest in living in a city without a bookstore.”
I remember her as one of the Dogwood’s most refreshing visitors, roaming the stage like a talk-show host.
I described her as writing novels about experiences she was going to have in the future.
It seemed “Bel Canto” and her authoritative writing on opera were but a premonition for a real-life friendship with Renee Fleming and her status as “Opera Girl,” who hung out back stage at the Met with tenors’ mistresses.
Or “Run,” about Irish-Catholic Boston Mayor Bernard Doyle adopting two black sons, Tip and Teddy, which seemed eerily prescient in light of going to Marquette and learning the story of Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and his sons, Gus and Gabe.
“I make people up and now they’re here,” Patchett, then 45, said that Friday night at the Middle School Performing Arts Center.
She even had the foresight to be near the Twin Towers when they fell on 9/11 so the Times could find her faster without tracking her to Tennessee.
Her last book, “State of Wonder,” reached No. 3 on the New York Times hardcover fiction best-seller list.
The Times described Patchett inspecting rows of blond wood bookshelves salvaged from a Borders that went out of business, stepping around construction workers and pointing out where a coffee bar, cash register and paperback tables would go.
Patchett said she counts on her store to drive home a tough-love message to book lovers: buy books at independent stores or they will vanish.
“This is not a showroom, this is not where you come in to scan your barcode,” she said. “If you like this thing, it’s your responsibility to keep this thing alive.”
Another thing to keep alive: Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign.
While President Obama pursues cautious pro-Wall Street policies, this moderate Republican talks about breaking up big banks that helped precipitate the 2008 financial meltdown when they got too big to fail.
The former Utah governor proposes imposing a fee on the six biggest banks, whose assets equal almost 65 percent of America’s GDP, the money reducing corporate taxes on non-financial companies to revive U.S. manufacturing.
Huntsman is very conservative on a number of issues, but refuses to pander to extremists who call the shots in his party.
He stakes his future on a strong New Hampshire showing.
As Obama’s former ambassador to China, Huntsman became the first candidate to talk about rising labor costs which could return some manufacturing jobs to the United States, if “we have new policies to take advantage of it.”

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