I don’t know that April is still the cruelest month. I’m sure it was in England in 1922 when T.S. Eliot wrote “The Waste Land.” When you take global warming into account, along with the fact we live in Nashville, I’d say March is now the cruelest month, and really, it may even be February. April, however, is the busiest month, although that makes for a lousy poem:
April is the busiest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
My novel is finished and my heart is open and so I volunteered to be helpful. I haven’t been helpful in a very long time. I would now like to review the month based on my responsibilities as an interlocutor and/or a supportive and enthusiastic friend. For purposes of this report, I’m starting April at the end of March and taking it through the first day of May. I would also like to say that this blog post in no way reflects our actual events calendar. This is a mere fraction of what’s actually going on this spring. To see the whole Megillah, keep an eye on our calendar (here). All these events are here at the bookstore unless otherwise noted:
March 29, 6:30 p.m., River Jordan, Confessions of a Christian Mystic — Never was there someone so aptly named. River is a deep and steady presence at Parnassus, where she sells books when she isn’t off writing them and giving talks and being generally inspiring to all. River is peaceful with an edge, and so is her terrific new book, Confessions of a Christian Mystic. The quote on the cover sums it up perfectly, calling River the South’s Anne Lamott. And be on the lookout for her fantastic upcoming interview here on Musing with another Parnassus favorite, Silas House, talking about faith and the South and how to make it through these days of turmoil. Because River is one of our own, and because I want to hear whatever she has to say, I’m looking forward to this one as the kickoff to the busy events season.
April 1, 6:30 p.m., Mary Laura Philpott, I Miss You When I Blink — I saw Mary Laura recently and asked her what I could do to be helpful around her publication. She looked at me like she couldn’t imagine how anyone could help her at this point. So I asked if she wanted me to interview her, and she said, “Yes! That!” You might know Mary Laura as the woman who draws penguins, but she’s also the creator of Musing, the very online literary magazine you are reading right this minute, and the host of WNPT’s A Word on Words. But starting in April she is going to become a phenomenon. Her book of essays, I Miss You When I Blink, is going to catapult her to stardom. I imagine this in-store conversation will be the last we’ll be seeing of Mary Laura for awhile, so come say goodbye and good luck.
April 4, 6:30 p.m., Harlan Coben, Run Away — This one was unexpected. Harlan Coben’s publisher wanted me to interview him but that seemed impossible. He’s written so many books (I counted thirty-two) that there was no chance of mastering the backlist. But he has the reputation of being a very good guy, smart and funny, and I love anyone who’s sold over seventy million copies worldwide and still wants to come to an indie bookstore to meet his fans. There’s also the fact that I dated not one but two of his classmates at Amherst when I was in my twenties. He also has a dog who looks a lot like Sparky. I figure Harlan Coben and I have things to talk about. I read his new book Run Away straight through without moving. It’s RIVETING.
April 10, 6:30 p.m., Nell Freudenberger, Lost and Wanted — I’ve never met Nell but I’ve been a fan of hers going back to her first collection of short stories, Lucky Girls, published in 2003. I wrote a blurb for her 2012 novel, The Newlyweds, and got a thank you note from her a week later saying she was so sorry for her late reply but she was in the hospital giving birth to her son when my blurb came in and her husband read it to her while she was having the baby. It’s the kind of anecdote that sticks with you. I was so excited about her new novel, Lost and Wanted, that I got extra galleys to send to friends. From there, Nell and I started exchanging emails. In a recent email, she asked if I would be in conversation with her at the store, and since she’s staying at my house, it seemed the only reasonable answer was yes. Please note — if you or anyone you know is interested in the sciences, you will love this event. If you’re interested in a completely engaging novel in which the main character is a brilliant physicist, look no further. There is real role model material here.
April 22, 6:30 p.m., Ruth Reichl, Save Me the Plums (a special ticketed event benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank) –– When Ruth got the editor job at Gourmet, she called and asked me to write a piece for her first issue, and I continued to write for the magazine for as long as she was there. It was hands down the most joyful freelance job of my life. Everyone who worked for Gourmet during the Reichl administration loved it, and we all loved her. Her new book, Save Me the Plums, is a tell-all recounting of the Gourmet years, both the thrill of running a great, creative magazine with a wonderful team, and the corporate power structure that loomed over everything. The book is also the next chapter in Ruth’s brilliant string of memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires. So if you love Ruth’s books, you miss the old Gourmet, or you just love Ruth (put me down for all three), you’ll want to hear our conversation about the good old days.
April 28, 4:30 p.m. at the PARTHENON (!!!) — Mary Norris, Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen (a free ticketed event)– Mary Norris is the copy editor for The New Yorker, and I loved her first book Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. Her event for that book was both brilliant and hilarious, and I wound up wishing that everyone I knew had been there to hear her talk about grammar. In her new book Greek to Me she decides to learn ancient Greek for fun, and spends every minute of her vacation time exploring Greece. Please, if you know anyone interested in studying languages, or anyone interested in a self-improvement program that doesn’t involve sit-ups, come to this event. It’s going to be so much fun to be at the Parthenon. I just got an email from Mary asking if I would be in conversation with her. I told her she didn’t need me, and she said, yes, in fact, she did. I don’t understand this but I’ll be there.
April 30, 6:30 p.m., Helen Ellis, Southern Lady Code — Mary Laura’s got this one, and she’s swinging back through Nashville from her book tour to do it. Helen and Mary Laura will be a perfect match. Helen is a friend of mine, and her book of essays Southern Lady Code is hysterically funny and will resonate profoundly with all of us. If you’re wondering who I mean by “us,” I mean you (used as a plural pronoun) and me. You will be buying this book for everyone in your life who could use a good laugh and a little instruction on what it means to be a Southern lady.
May 1, 6:15 p.m. at TPAC’s Polk Theater, Melinda Gates, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World (a ticketed event presented with our Salon@615 partners) — This is a little bit like being asked to interview Reese Witherspoon. Who’s going to say no to the chance to talk to Melinda Gates, especially when her new book is called The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World? This book amazed me. Melinda Gates is not sitting home writing checks. She is going to some of the most challenging places in the world to listen to women who struggle with poverty help them solve their problems on their own terms. The book is clear, informative, and filled with compassion. Bring your friends, your book club, your church, your daughters, and see how we can make a difference in the world.
I’m looking forward to all of them. This list constitutes a true embarrassment of riches, which is what we specialize in at Parnassus. Well, that and dogs. Sparky will be at all in-store events. We hope to see you there.
Speaking of spring and upcoming events: Lambslide, Ann Patchett’s new picture book with illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser, comes out on May 7, and we’ll be hosting Ann and Robin in conversation here at the store on May 6. More on that soon. Meanwhile, you can pre-order your copy here!
Oh, and pre-orders for Ann’s new novel, The Dutch House (Sept. 2019) are open now as well!