The elegy for the neighborhood independent bookstore has become a journalistic Mad Lib. It’s been written many times over in New York, and the ongoing vitality of Powell’s, the Tattered Cover, and Politics and Prose doesn’t reverse the overall narrative of decline.
It was like stumbling into a Borgesian reality in which everything was made of books — the walls, the floors, the ceilings, even the employees. Before I could think, there was Scott Wannberg, one of the true literary zealots of our time, exploding from behind a cordillera of books to greet me. Within minutes, I’d signed the well-represented editions of my own titles, which were on permanent display right alongside those of all the authors I most admired, and then Scott was piling my arms high with books I absolutely just had to read. He had a sixth sense, knowing exactly what I wanted and needed, and from then on, though it was a bit of a haul from Woodland Hills, Dutton’s was my bookshop.
I once went in with a friend, asking for a book, title and author unknown, offering only a vague description. We waited for the indie-bookstore-clerk hauteur (and unsure that he’d know what we were looking for); instead, the friendly employee said, that’s Triomf, by Marlene Van Niekerk, the far wall, third row from the bottom.
Update: Hmmm. Perhaps people in Brentwood aren’t reading, as such:
Which is perhaps why a certain segment of the population in Southern California has begun to showcase the home library as an image- enhancing badge of literacy. The trend has even spawned a service: the library consultant.
“People move into new houses or second homes with all these empty shelves, and they just don’t have enough books,” says Nick Harvill, who catalogs and curates personal collections.
For an hourly fee starting at $45, West Hollywood-based Harvill will appraise books and create extensive bibliographies based on clients’ passions. He also can help organize and present a collection.