Notes From Ann: Sheltering in Place (With Books)

Sparky and his neighbor Gus practice social distancing like the good boys they are!

Mine is a brain wired for cheerfulness. It’s the way I was born. These days my very nature feels inappropriate. Get gloomy! I tell myself. Yet while I’m able to manifest small intervals of dread, it fails to stick.

I take Sparky for walks and everyone is out, chatting at a distance and even friendlier than usual. We’re all checking in with one another, asking how we’re doing and wondering what the other needs. Nashville moved from the local tragedy of tornadoes to the global tragedy of the pandemic, all the while showing our best selves. If I’m going to be stuck somewhere I’m very grateful to be stuck here. I’m also grateful to our Parnassus customers who seem determined to stand with us for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. We want to return the favor.

If there is a silver lining to these days, it’s that we have more time to read. So even though Parnassus is closed, we’re still in the store, ready to be helpful. We’re answering the phone and taking orders. We’ll mail you all the books you want or you can call us from outside and we’ll run the books to your car. The system is safe and it works. Restaurants have been doing this for years, so why not us? If you’re not sure what you want to read, call us and we’ll talk it over, the same way we talked when we were all in the store together.

Are you someone who wants to dive headlong into what scares you? This might be the time to read Stephen King’s The Stand. I’m not going to do it, but you might want to. It’s long enough that this whole thing might be over by the time you’ve finished. King himself says it’s probably his best book. The modern classic of pandemic fiction is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and the classic classic is Katherine Anne Porter’s novella Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Again, I’m not recommending you go there, but I understand that some people like to push on their sore teeth.

If like me you’re inclined in a more cheerful direction, read James McBride’s shaggy and beguiling Deacon King Kong, about a lovable old drunk who simply cannot be killed despite the fact that everyone in the neighborhood is trying. His publisher should consider this as a marketing ploy: Here’s a guy who cannot die! I also loved Lily King’s new novel Lovers & Writers, which reminded me so much of my youth that I asked Lily if she had been reading my mail in the 1990s. It’s all about love and being broke and trying to make art. It’s a very tender and enveloping book. Louise Erdrich’s newest masterpiece The Night Watchman is an epic tale of people who are determined to do the right thing and, against all odds, succeed. This is our March pick for First Editions Club and I’m putting my money on it to be a big winner this year.

I’m reading 100 Poems by Seamus Heaney now. I find it helps. Didn’t we always mean to read more poetry?

And speaking of books we’ve always meant to read, why not take on one of those? There’s nothing more engaging than David Copperfield, or maybe this is when you finally get around to Sense and Sensibility. Sometimes stepping out of this modern age is just the thing.

I could go on (and on and on). In times of uncertainty one thing is certain — there will always be plenty of books, and with your support there will always be Parnassus (at least for a long time). Just give us a call. We’ll get through this together.