Ann Patchett on her moment of "Girls" fame: "I am so far out of it!"

The "Bel Canto" novelist doesn't even watch TV, but HBO's pack of hip urbanites (and their moms) have heard of her

Published March 4, 2013 5:25PM (EST)

      (HBO/AP/Melissa Ann Pinney)
(HBO/AP/Melissa Ann Pinney)

Ann Patchett, call your agent.

The author of books including "Bel Canto" and "State of Wonder," who also runs a Nashville bookstore, couldn't seem farther removed from the world of HBO's "Girls" -- a show whose characters seem likely to read Sheila Heti or Vice magazine. Besides, as Patchett told Salon, she doesn't watch TV.

And yet, last night's episode name-checked the author, when the mother of Lena Dunham's character announces that she's having a wonderful time at an academic conference in New York.

"It has been such an awesome conference," says Becky Ann Baker's character, a prim middle-aged, upper-middle-class woman. "I never thought I'd meet so many other women who feel the same way I do about Ann Patchett." The joke here, perhaps, is that Patchett is the sort of tasteful, excellent, high-mid-brow author for whom women like Hannah's mother would, near-universally, feel a strong affinity.

Patchett is flattered. "I heard about the reference this morning from an old boyfriend who called me a 'meme,' and then I had to ask him what a 'meme' was," Patchett told Salon via email. "It's very nice to think that someone at the show would take the trouble to put me in the cultural loop when clearly I am so far out of it."

"I was once an answer on 'Jeopardy!' and nobody got the question. [The question was worth $1,000 in the category Women Writers.] It's a little like that, but for a younger, hipper crowd."

"Girls," here, shares a certain literary sensibility with forerunner "Sex and the City," which focused, too, on a writer struggling (sort of) in New York: There were jokes about Michiko Kakutani (whose review prompts Carrie Bradshaw's breakdown) and Joyce Carol Oates (who suffers an "unfortunate incident" at a ladies' luncheon). Meanwhile, "Girls" has mentioned Patchett and lightly chided a generation of confessional memoirists with the insufferable "Tally Schifrin" character.

We're counting down to the Salman Rushdie cameo.

By Daniel D'Addario

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Ann Patchett Books Girls Hannah Horvath Hbo Lena Dunham