Last night I went to the Ann Patchett reading at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica (thank you traffic gods for the semi-open roads there and back). I'm really excited to have discovered Live Talks LA, the group that put this on, and can't wait to see what they offer for the fall season (having just heard of them, I was really disappointed to hear that I missed Steve Martin interviewing Tina Fey earlier this year). This event was one of the more interesting readings I have been too, both because of the author and the venue.
I'll only bore everyone with the details of Bergamot Station for a minute, but personally I'm officially fascinated and can't wait to go back. When I got home last night I started out describing it to my husband by saying it "kind of looks like a shit hole," when I probably should have used words like "rustic" or "industrial." The location was originally a trolley station in Santa Monica but has since been converted into an arts center, comprised of several different galleries and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The inside the gallery where the reading was held, Track 16, looked like any other large, lofty space with your normal white dry wall and eclectic pieces of art. Anyway, if you're in the area, visit for some modern art.
The reading itself was different from most of the ones I've been to. Generally, when you go to a reading it is more of a conversation with someone else, ensuring that there is direction and that certain things the audience may want to hear are discussed. Ann Patchett was in conversation, supposedly, with Maile Meloy, one of her close friends and also an author. It was really more of a one-woman tangential show, with Meloy seeming incredibly nervous, often not even finishing her sentences (she did genuinely seem like a smart, sweet woman, though). Patchett read from the beginning of her newest book, State of Wonder, an approach I actually really liked. I generally read the novel before going, but I imagine it is pretty confusing for those that don't (many authors read from the middle). After that it was an hour of topics that always started with the book but ended up in left-field. There was a great deal of acknowledged name dropping (Nichole Kidman, Jane Hamilton, John Irving, Renee Flemming, etc...) and a plethora of confidence. Ann Patchett is creative and brilliant, and she knows it.
Her main platform ended up being a bookstore she is opening in her hometown, Nashville, which is currently, and shockingly, bookstore-less. The idea of living in a town without a place to sell her book (her words) is devastating, so she's partnered up with a businesswoman to open Parnassus Books (or something like that). She is openly anti-Amazon and other super-chain stores, for the right reasons, but does so in a way where I felt that she was biting one of the hands that feed her. She even said at the end to not buy from the online retailer and that if people were still needing to buy her book to only do it from smaller independent stores. Personally, I received a first edition paperback to review for Amazon Vine, but if I had not I still would have bought it online in one of my binges. I guess when you've won a crap load of awards and have friends in high places you don't have to scrimp around for people to buy your books.
On a whole I enjoyed the event. I loved the new-to-me location and she did discuss some really interesting things that were, and were not, related to her book (she graphically described watching a C-Section so she could write about it). The other attendees were an interesting crowd as well; from the charity events people were discussing, the casual mentions of screenwriters they sat next to at dinner parties, and business cards exchanges, I figured that this crowd was a little more affluent than at the ALOUD readings I usually attend. I am glad I attended, though, as readings are always inspiring and temporarily motivate me to start writing (any second now, any second).