I’ve got pretty much one message these days and it’s this: my mother, Jeanne Ray, has a new book out, Calling Invisible Women, in which the heroine, the slightly beleaguered fifty-something named Clover Hobart, takes a believable cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs (a little hormone replacement therapy, some calcium supplement, a pinch of anti-depressant) and is rendered invisible. You would think that would be bad enough, but the really troubling part is that no one in her family notices she’s missing. Clover then joins a support group of invisible women, none of whom have been missed. It’s a very funny book, and she’s my MOTHER, so I think it is essential that anyone reading this blog buy the book. (We have signed copies. We’ll mail them to you.)
In fact, this is a great month to buy locally written books at your locally owned and operated independent bookstore. Alice Randall has a new novel out, Ada’s Rules: a Sexy, Skinny Novel, and she packed the house at Parnassus for her reading. The phone has been ringing off the hook with people wanting to know if we have Ann (Mason-Dixon Knitting) Shayne’s novel, Bowling Avenue, and the answer is yes, we do! It is reported to give the inside scoop on life in Nashville and I’m looking forward to it. We will also have Jennie Fields’ novel about Edith Wharton, The Age of Desire, which comes out in early August. Our Local Authors section is one of the most popular spots in the store. There once was a time here in Nashville that if I told someone I was a writer, they would ask me if I recorded my own songs. These days everybody knows that Nashville is a great place to write novels.
Not that I’ve been in Nashville much lately. I’ve been out on book tour for the paperback of State of Wonder for the past month, journeying forth into America to see bookstores and meet readers and sell books (every single night, in every single store, I pushed my mother’s book because I am a good daughter and because the book is FUNNY.) Even though I’ve been going on book tour for the last twenty years, this is the first time I’ve gone out as a bookseller. I had such a good time hanging out with the staff at various stores and talking shop – What are you reading? What are you loving? How have sales been? It used to be I was all about the front of the store where books are sold, now I’m much more interested in the back rooms where the books are received. I guess people who own restaurants are always going to be more interested in the kitchens.
While I traveled, I read. I read some truly fantastic books this past month and none of them are going to be published anytime soon (though remember the name Anthony Marra for future reference.) I’m going to wait and talk about those books when they can actually be purchased. One book I read and loved that actually is available is a novel a writer friend sent me called Lean on Pete, by Willy Vlautin. She said she thought it was a perfect book for Nashville, and even though it’s set in the West, I understood what she meant. It has a toughness and self-reliance about it that reminds me of Tennessee. It’s about a young boy who is very much on his own who finds comfort in a horse. I was reading it late at night and I became so frantically worried about this kid I had to stay up until 2:00 a.m. to see what was going to happen to him. That to me is the surest sign that a book is working – when I forget that I’m reading something that someone made up, when I get caught up in the narrative and believe in the lives of the characters.
One last thing – I memorized the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V this month. It was a great adventure. I hadn’t tried to memorize Shakespeare since high school and I definitely found the Shakespeare receiving part of my brain to be in great disrepair. But once I finally got it I felt incredibly proud of myself. Brain calisthenics! I told my friend Jim Fox about my project (he had just sent me Harold Bloom’s book, Hamlet: Poem Unlimited, which he says is worth the effort, though I personally have not made the effort yet), and Jim told me he was memorizing lyrics from Reading Lyrics: More than a thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975: A celebration of our greatest songwriters, a rediscovery of forgotten masters, and an appreciation of an extraordinary, popular art form, edited by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball. This, I think, is a brilliant idea, because anytime you know all the words to ”The Man That Got Away” or “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” life is going to be better. It also gives me a nice excuse to recommend it because this book is my social secret weapon. Bring it to a dinner party instead of a bottle of wine. Send it to a sick friend in lieu of flowers. Take it as a hostess gift when you go to stay with friends. I’ve given it so many times and everyone seems to be genuinely thrilled with it. Of course, Jim Fox was the person who first gave the book to me many years ago.
If your book club is interested in doing State of Wonder, please bring them to the store either on July 18 at 6:30 or July 19 at 10. I’ll be there to lead the discussion with our wonderful book club facilitator, Kathy Schultenover. And while you’re marking your calendar, be sure to note July 10 at 1:30 when the Honorable Phil Bredesen will discuss his favorite books with Donna Nicely. I plan to come early to get a good seat.
When making a list of all the things we can’t get on Amazon, let’s put an afternoon with our former governor, surely the smartest man in the state, at the top. I look forward to seeing you in the store.
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Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Pantheon, 11/2000