December 14, 2011


The screen play for “You’ve Got Mail” by Nora and Delia Ephron was based on the stage play, “Parfumerie” by Miklos Laszlo. It is also an updated version of a 1940s film called “The Shop Around the Corner.” In the newer version, an independent bookstore owner struggles to survive a price war against a large conglomerate and loses the battle while finding love.


In real life there have been numerous predictions about the similar demise of neighborhood book establishments. The conventional wisdom is that these cozy corners can’t compete with giants like Barnes & Noble or Amazon and will soon be as dead as the dodo. But “Bel Canto” novelist Ann Patchett has decided to bet against the odds. She’s opened a bookstore in her hometown of Nashville and isn’t ready to count the little guy out yet, believing that personal service can keep pace with electronic convenience.(“The Week,” 12/1/11)

Frankly, Patchett’s idea of a place where everybody knows your name smacks of Nirvana to me, especially after a morning of struggling to get a book ordered electronically. If something goes amiss, there’s no clerk to say, “May I be of help?”

Naturally, as a person who is electronically challenged, I wish Ann Patchett well. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if an old idea about civility and personal service became new again?