• Wanderings in Bookland

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    I'm in the middle of writing a longish post on "Novels into Film" (The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George Higgins) and I thought I'd share some random book notes that came into my head the last few days. If I don't catch them now, they'll be gone like birds in a cornfield.

    Why I don't attend Antiquarion Book Fairs:

    The LA Times Calendar/Weekend edition of last week had an article on the upcoming California Antiquarian Book Fair. The author made a strained attempt to convince the reader that the new collectors of antiquarion books were young people. Amazing! One of the convincing arguments was from a Netherlands-based bookseller who was selling a copy of lyrics and notes by rapper Tupac Shakur for $47,500. His excited proof was this; "Tupac is the Shakespeare of our time". If I was selling an item for almost 50 K, I'd say they were Shakespeare and Elvis combined. Another bright comment was "...they (antiquarian book collectors) collect our of passion, enjoyment and admiration of the book and its place in history. They relish the hunt. They value the book as a text, an art object or a symbol, and oftentimes they don't even read it". Woah! Back up there, "oftentimes they don't even read it". Kind defeats the whole purpose of the book in the firstplace, doesn't it? And what happened to the "they value the book as a text?" part. No, my experience of book fairs has been one of greed and survival of the fittest. Most of the best books are traded and sold between dealers the night before the show. And I buy books because I'm going to read them, not collect them. Although there are books I read that I collect as well. I suppose I'm being grumpy here, but those kinds of statements are so silly, you know?

    How do you move 100,000 books in two weeks?

    Iliad Bookshop (the used bookstore where I work) is going to move sometime in March. We will move the entire stock of 100,000+ books in two weeks. Whew! I'm tired just writing those words. Our rent was raised astronomically and we were forced to find another building. Fortunately, our owner, Dan Weinstein, bought a building only a mile away from our present location. So, we'll be lugging thousands of boxes of books over to the new store next month. I like the idea of moving though. We can improve the bookstore by getting rid of old, dead sections and adding new ones. We'll have parking and a lot more space. We will eventually bethe largest used bookstore in Los Angeles. Once all the hard work is done, we should have one helluva bookstore.

    Old stores fade; new ones rise.

    The last year has seen the loss of several independent bookstores in Los Angeles. We lost Dutton's (North Hollywood), Green Ginger, Old Town Books, Bestseller Books, and Book City in Hollywood. Most of the losses are coming from astronomical rent increases, but a few are the result of illness and a move to the internet in order to reduce overhead. Fortunately, there is one store that just opened. My friend Jerry Chadburn, who was a printer by trade, just recently opened his "Always First" bookstore in North Hollywood. It's a smallish store, but it's packed with great books in excellent condition. Jerry has always been a stickler for condition. He's got mostly vintage paperbacks for sale, but there are sections of mystery, science fiction and cinema books in hardback. He doesn't have a website yet, but you can reach him at:

    Jerrry Chadburn
    Always First Books
    12041 Magnolia Blvd.
    North Hollywood, CA 91607
    818-761-3878

    Warning: if you get Jerry started on some of his favorite topics, expect to stay at the store a couple of hours. He's hard to stop once he gets rolling!

    Kate's Book Blog: It's what a blog should be!

    My favorite book blog on the net (yes, and that includes BookSlut) is hands-down, Kate's Book Blog. Lately, she's been on a roll. Last week she had a great post on creativity/books/writing and music, that had me mulling over her ideas for days. I'd completely forgotten that when I was younger I would frequently buy a new music CD at the same time I bought a new book; and then would proceed to listen to that CD over and over while I was reading the book. The music and the story got fused in my mind so that, to this day, certain books are connected to certain albums. Phillip K. Dick's "Ubik" is forever welded to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". She's got some wonderful observations on the topic with great links. You could stay busy for hours just following up. She's got an equally wonderful post on "Notebooks and Journals". It's ironic that I recently came across my old journals from 20 years ago and read many passages while cringing and laughing till I cried. Kate mulls over her use of notebooks and discusses several authors as well. I have fond memories of Camus's notebooks, the Notebooks of Athol Fugard, Robert Lowell's Notebooks and the recent Notebooks of Kurt Cobain
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    When is a bookstore like a library?

    I've worked as a bookstore clerk for over 30 years. In that time, you meet a lot of people and you see them change. In the last few years I've noticed that young, high-school aged people are seem to have no idea how a used bookstore operates. At least a dozen times I've been asked by the confused young, "Is this a library? Can I check these books out?". I have to explain to them that even though we both have books, libraries and bookstores are very different. We buy and sell books here; at the library you can check books out and return them. They almost always gape at me curiously after I give them the spiel. It makes me wonder two things; are schools simply not teaching people how to use the library?; or, are used bookstores in decline so much that young people don't even know that they exist? Would the same young people ask if they could check out the books at a Borders Bookstore? or, a Barnes & Noble. I don't think they would. Hmnnn, the conclusions are discouraging. I'll just have to keep doing my part to educate younger folks about how cool a used bookstore can be. I hope you, the reader, will do the same.
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