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The Bookstore Strikes Back

Author Ann Patchett on opening an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tenn. at a time when brick and mortar bookstores are considered dead:

"I was starting to understand the role that the interviews would play in that success. In my 30s, I had paid my rent by writing for fashion magazines. I found Elle to be the most baffling, because its editors insisted on identifying trends. Since most fashion magazines 'closed' (industry jargon for the point at which the pages are shipped to the printing plant) three months before they hit newsstands, the identification of trends, especially from Nashville, required an act of near-clairvoyance. Finally, I realized what everyone in fashion already knew: a trend is whatever you call a trend. This spring in Paris, fashionistas will wear fishbowls on their heads. In my hotel room in Australia, this insight came back to me more as a vision than a memory. 'The small independent bookstore is coming back,' I told reporters in Bangladesh and Berlin. 'It’s part of a trend.'

"My act was on the road, and with every performance, I tweaked the script, hammering out the details as I proclaimed them to strangers: All things happen in a cycle, I explained—the little bookstore had succeeded and grown into a bigger bookstore. Seeing the potential for profit, the superstore chains rose up and crushed the independents, then Amazon rose up and crushed the superstore chains. Now that we could order any book at any hour without having to leave the screen in front of us, we realized what we had lost: the community center, the human interaction, the recommendation of a smart reader rather than a computer algorithm telling us what other shoppers had purchased. I promised whoever was listening that from those very ashes, the small independent bookstore would rise again."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 29, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4590 words)

The Face of Pain

From 2003: In her dazzling "Autobiography of a Face," Lucy Grealy detailed her quest to reclaim her jaw, disfigured by cancer. Suddenly, she was the toast of literary New York, beloved for her quick wit and wild streak, saluted for her grit. But her endless surgeries left her so weak, impoverished, and dependent on drugs that even her dearest friends couldn’t save her.
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2003
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7237 words)