Parnassus

Par­nas­sus, Nashville’s new inde­pen­dent book­store, offi­cially opened yes­ter­day to much fan­fare. It’s not sur­pris­ing, given the incred­i­ble amount of advance pub­lic­ity locally and nation­ally: a front page story in The New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly; in the Novem­ber issue of Gar­den & Gun; in Chapter16.org; the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor and NPR. This is due, par­tially, to the for­mi­da­ble star power of owner/novelist, Ann Patch­ett, who thumbed her nose at the Neil Van Uum’s of the world who would claim that the end of the inde­pen­dent book­store is nigh by step­ping up to fill the void after Davis Kidd’s clos­ing last year. The civic shock and mourn­ing that fol­lowed the loss of that store cou­pled with nearly a year with­out a place in the Athens of the South to buy a book is also part of the over­whelm­ing good­will accom­pa­ny­ing Parnassus’s arrival. But I think there’s some­thing else afoot, some­thing related to the Occupy Wall Street and loca­vore move­ments. Not directly, of course, but part of the zeit­geist as we wade through the Great Reces­sion and slowly arrive, it seems to me, at a real­iza­tion that we, the 99%, can have the world we want if we invest in it. I’ll call this The Great Reclamation.

Recla­ma­tion, by def­i­n­i­tion, is the tak­ing back of a waste­land for cul­ti­va­tion and all around us, it seems, the earth is scorched. Our country’s finances are a waste­land and so is our gov­ern­ment. The Super Com­mit­tee can’t seem to do its job, can’t arrive at a com­pro­mise, although you and I do it every day at home or at work. This com­mit­tee exists because Con­gress couldn’t do its job. The pun­ters punt to pun­ters, Democ­rats to Repub­li­cans and back, for over three decades, with a nifty assist from our friends on Wall St. And so here we are.

 

The earth’s on its way to being a waste­land. Con­sider, for instance, Antarc­tica and what it tells us about the state of the planet and how cli­mate change shad­ows the rise in car­bon emis­sions since the Indus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion or that last year was, once again, the hottest year on record. (But let’s say you don’t buy any of this sci­en­tific mumbo-jumbo, this high­fa­lutin hokum dreamed up by tree hug­gers and lib­er­als, by commie/progressive tax-and-spenders, even though you’ll take it as law when you, say, fly a plane or drive your car or take your Plavix or have triple-bypass surgery. My counter-argument is some­thing like French philoso­pher Blaise Pascal’s gam­bit. Remem­ber that from Intro Phi­los­o­phy? Bet­ter, he argued, to con­vert to Chris­tian­ity, even if you don’t believe, rather than risk spend­ing eter­nity in hell. Bet­ter to live sus­tain­ably, I say, to put your mus­cle behind a Green World, than wait for defin­i­tive proof of man­made causes of cli­mate change, since the pos­si­ble alter­na­tive is no world at all.)

In The Great Recla­ma­tion, you vote with your vote and your pock­et­book. Apply its logic to any­thing. Here’s an exam­ple: If you need a book, you call Par­nas­sus and order it by phone and pick it up the next time you’re in Green Hills because you believe it’s impor­tant that nation­ally rec­og­nized authors have a place to share their work in Nashville. Because when you book shop, you’d rather talk to an informed human being who lives and breathes lit­er­a­ture or mys­tery or non­fic­tion than be offered rec­om­men­da­tions based on sta­tis­ti­cal analy­ses of your buy­ing habits. Because, really, who the fuck needs a book RIGHT NOW any more than you need your whole library with you every­where you go. Because you chose the red pill instead of the blue pill. Because on a plane you can keep read­ing a tree book dur­ing take­off and land­ing and on the beach can drop it in the sand with­out major dam­age. Because you like page num­bers and not per­cents. Because con­trary to what some might say, the envi­ron­men­tal impact of e-readers is more dele­te­ri­ous than tree books. Because when you read the notes in the mar­gins of your book, the scrib­blings you penned a decade or two ago, you get a sense of the ways you’ve changed and grown and remain the same. Because serendip­ity is part of life’s magic and is more likely to occur when you go some­where with­out a clue as to what you’re look­ing for and it finds you and feels as if it were fated. Because time, in this over­sched­uled hyper-active world, is to be wasted and to do so is a recla­ma­tion thereof and a rebel­lion against thought­less, tyran­ni­cal efficiency.

Because.

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In Ladies and Gen­tle­men news, I appeared on the Bookra­geous pod­cast Episode 29. Our topic: short sto­ries. The con­ver­sa­tion was a hell of a lot of fun and fea­tures this month’s Gar­den & Gun pinup girl, Rich­mond, VA’s Rebecca Schin­sky, also known as The Book Lady. Mean­while, watch for my posts on the ATP finals. As I write this, Tsonga and Fed are warm­ing up for their match. E-readers I can take or leave but not my DVR.