by Jim Ridley
The first issue is up, and we headed straight for the staff recommendations. Patchett herself selects Leanna Shapton's Swimming Studies: "If you’re a swimmer, or you know a swimmer, or an athlete of any stripe, or any kind of artist, or you just enjoy very clean prose and straightforward nonfiction, I would press this book into your hands." Other picks range from Gary Shteyngart's memoir Little Failure to Amanda Lindhout's A House in the Sky, the journalist's narrative of her kidnapping ordeal in Somalia.
Co-owner Karen Hayes recommends Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings — a timely selection for a couple of reasons. Not only is novelist Kidd one of Musing's first two author interviews (the other is Diary of a Wimpy Kid creator Jeff Kinney), she's appearing 6:15 tonight at Humanities Tennessee's Salon@615 series at the downtown Nashville Public Library.
The full release below has details on signing up, contacts for authors seeking interviews, etc.
PARNASSUS BOOKS LAUNCHES ONLINE LIT MAG
“Musing” features column by Ann Patchett, plus interviews, book recommendations, and more.
NASHVILLE, JANUARY 15 - This is Nashville — Music City, of course — where every album has a B-side: the extras, the bootlegs, the stories behind the songs. Today, Parnassus Books releases its own B-side of sorts, an online literary journal that will spotlight conversations with a wide range of authors, including the shop’s co-owner, Ann Patchett, whose blog will be a highlight of Musing.
“In Greek mythology, Mount Parnassus was home to the muses, the goddesses of inspiration for literature and the arts,” says Karen Hayes, who co-owns the store with Patchett. “Musing is a way for us to share what inspires us at Parnassus Books.”
The well-read staff at Parnassus are known for their enthusiasm in helping customers find just the right book, and they’ll have a voice on Musing as well. Each month, staffers will offer up their list of favorites. “One of our goals is that no one will ever have to say, ‘I can’t find anything to read,’” says Hayes.
Hayes and Patchett are especially excited that Musing offers readers the option to subscribe not only via social media (Facebook and Twitter), but also securely by email — so those who want the latest new book recommendations, interviews, and other content can receive updates directly in their inboxes.
Musing’s lighthearted tone implies reading doesn’t always have to be such serious business. (One of the sections is “Shop Dog Diaries,” where the furry members of the staff offer up their observations.) The content, however, aims to be smart and unique. “We like to say, ‘it’s neither stuffy nor fluffy,’” says Niki Castle, marketing director (and owner of Gracie, one of the shop dogs), “so it will appeal to both hard-core literary types and casual readers.”
(“But Sparky is fluffy,” Patchett points out about her own dog. “His recommendations may lean toward the fluffy.”)
Parnassus has forged a new model of the independent bookstore. The New York Times called it “small and sleek, with personal service, intimate author events and a carefully chosen rotation of books.” Situated outside big-city publishing hubs such as New York, it nonetheless draws an unusually impressive roster of big-name authors for readings and events. The first author interviews on Musing will be Jeff Kinney, author of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and best-selling novelist Sue Monk Kidd, whose latest, The Invention of Wings, debuted this month.
The new site is edited, produced, and largely written by Mary Laura Philpott, an editorial contributor to several publications (including The Barnes & Noble Book Blog) who joins the Parnassus staff as Musing’s editor this month. “The most amazing people come through these doors,” Philpott says. “The vibe here is a combination of intimate and worldly, both independent and connected. That’s the feel we want to pass along in Musing — especially for those who live far away and don’t have the opportunity to come in and have these conversations in person.”
“I’m thrilled that Mary Laura has come on board to give us a more complete, and, let’s face it, more interesting Internet presence. I feel like all I do is read, and still it’s impossible for me to read enough to come up with a compelling list of books every month,” says Patchett. “We need more points of view, more personality. We’ve got that now.”
Musing will connect seamlessly to the main sales site for Parnassus, meaning readers can simply click on the name of any book that interests them in an article to purchase the book online.
For more information — or to subscribe — visit ParnassusMusing.net (or click over from the store’s main site at ParnassusBooks.net). Representatives of authors wishing to be considered for interviews may contact Niki Castle at niki [at] parnassusbooks [dot] net.