A stroll down Clinton Avenue at Common Hour reveals what Ann Patchett loves most about St. Joseph’s College: Sprawled across campus is a close-knit community of students brimming with conversation, happiness and possibility — much like the Nashville neighborhood the bestselling author calls home.
“Brooklyn is a total mystery to me…but I love St. Joseph’s College.” Patchett said, speaking to a near-sold-out crowd at her Brooklyn Voices event Sept. 13. “It’s filled with charming young people.”
That intimate aura of the familiar carries Patchett’s through her latest book, Commonwealth, which follows a family of step-siblings over the course of five decades. Patchett herself drew inspiration for the work from her own life.
“I was one of two girls, and my mother left my father and married someone who had two boys and two girls. And they moved to the other side of the country,” Patchett recently told PBS News.
Comonwealth represents her closest autobiographical novel yet, while her personal interest in such vibrant communities as St. Joseph’s College also draw from her own preferences.
Patchett, a Tennessee resident of since she was 6, opened Parnassus, her own independent bookstore, in Nashville in 2011. A diehard fan of independent bookshops, authors and reading, Patchett expressed her sadness at not holding the night’s event at Greenlight Bookstore, the popular independent bookseller that teams up with SJC for Brooklyn Voices. Still, she noted that St. Joseph’s College was a lovely compromise.
“You guys are so rich in bookstores in Brooklyn, you don’t have to come to Nashville,” Patchett told the SJC crowd.
None of it happened, and all of it is true,” Patchett confirmed to J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of The Engagements and Maine,”Emotionally, this book is very true.”
With her latest offering close to home, Patchett spoke about the thinly veiled narrative that so closely reflects her own past.
Patchett received the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002 for her Bel Canto. Patchett’s other novels include Run, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft and The Magician’s Assistant, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Nashville Banner Tennessee Writer of the Year Award in 1994.
Join St. Joseph’s College at the next installment of Brooklyn Voices on Oct. 4:
A Celebration of Marie Ponsot
Tuesday, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.
A Celebration of Marie Ponsot • Presenting her Collected Poems • Readings by Ed Hirsch, Sapphire, Cynthia Zarin and other poets • Hosted by PSA Executive Director Alice Quinn
Tickets free; RSVP required to reserve a seat