Ann Pattchett’s Bookstore
asks, ‘why write?’ when there are so many great writers out there
It’s in Nashville. Ann Patchett’s bookstore. And as if there isn’t enough music on every corner and bar to grab you by the ears, inside the bookstore there is a recital in progress with a series of singers performing their party pieces to polite applause. More overwhelming than yet more music is the sheer number of books, books, books. The store has half a wall dedicated to Ann’s works alone. Rows of her paperbacks and hardcovers grouped by subtle colors and size are surrounded in turn by Clancy’s and Grisham’s and Patterson’s garish, grinning teeth begging for extraction.
I wonder why I should try to write when there are already so many words and sentences and pages and books to hand. I had just seen a sign down the road—WE BUY BOOKS. Books deftly crafted of stanzas and theses and similes and tropes treated like so much unwanted jewelry for WE BUY GOLD purveyors. A writing student, after hearing an essay rife with metaphors, asked, “Why do we needs all those riddles?” Good question. Riddles and puzzles—who killed whom in the kitchen with what? What can I possibly add to that looming avalanche of plots and outlines, research and drama that would be new or interesting or insightful? Especially when there are so many superb writers, elegant wordsmiths, more sensitive and insightful than I.
I feel like the guy huddled in a doorway on Nashville’s Broad Street, tapping rhythms on his knee, begging for attention, his hat on the sidewalk for offerings to his minor skills while two doors down, full-fledged musicians play amplified country western with drums, guitars and fiddle behind three-part harmony. And just around the next corner are the recording studios for the actual name artists making CDs to sell after road shows and guest appearances.
I guess it’s all a matter of scale…so to speak. Just because a kid will never be a concert pianist is no reason to give up piano lessons. It’s the moment of creativity that makes it all worthwhile. The Rumpelstiltskin moment of making gold from straw when we suddenly connect unlike or unexpected thoughts and images into something new and original. That’s what makes writing worthwhile, if only for ourselves. As if that’s not enough.