This is truly an era passing away. Dutton's in Brentwood, CA (Los Angeles) that used to have two locations in swanky areas has to close its doors after twenty years. It's one of those places I dreamed of doing a signing in some day. Unfortunately, now I won't get that chance. They are closing up shop in April well before my book can hit the streets. Their Beverly Hills store closed in December over rent disputes and now the Brentwood store will close because the developer who owns the property is going to refurbish and rebuild the shops in that area. The new, smaller bookstore he is putting in at "ridiculously low rent" may be too small for Dutton's culture, says Doug Dutton.
Hey, I know LA is about change. I've seen it morph into all sorts of things over the years, from when I grew up there in the sixties to today. When I was a kid, I remember being in the car and cruising down the Harbor Freeway and gawking at the buildings of downtown. In those days, the City Hall was the tallest building. Now it is dwarfed by the other mega buildings surrounding it.
Book culture was always part of my younger days. We'd make the occasional trek downtown to the LA Public Library and even when I was a kid, I marveled at the deco design and WPA artwork in the place. Stairwells with brass and wood. Large wooden book index files (before computers made it easy to look up books and where in the library they could be found.)
When I was a teenager, we journeyed to Westwood by UCLA to go into their multi-floored bookstore. We perused the used bookstores in Long Beach--Acres of Books, and all the other stores we came to love. Recently, I've come to love Warwick's in La Jolla as the sort of standard independent bookstore; cozy, knowlegdable staff, a little of this, a little of that. Sure, we all buy books on Amazon, too. It's inevitable, the convenience. But it is no substitute for thumbing down the shelves, picking up something that looks interesting, and making that discovery.
Are bookstores a dying breed? I hope not. Like books themselves--paper and cardboard cover--I hope they never disappear. We need them. We need the visceral sense of walking into a place that smells like books, of taking a book down from a shelf and paging through it with our flesh and blood hands, not virtual fingers, of chatting with staff that actually reads and can recommend. Call me a dinosaur, but I don't want these experiences to die off. Yeah, there's room for Amazon and e-books and e-book readers, but please give me the brick and mortar stores, too. Can't we all just get along?