Final chapter for Dutton’s Brentwood

Dutton’s Brentwood, R.I.P.

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.

Now it’s curtains for Dutton’s Brentwood. Yes, people in Brentwood, Brentwood Adjacent, and Greater Brentwood read books. T.C. Boyle pays his respects:

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.

The illusion of choice

A comment on my Walmart post below reminded me of a grouse I’ve been nursing for some time. One thing about big stores is that they could offer a really wide variety of merchandise, and having failed to find somewhat specialized photographic items in the small neighborhood camera stores that used to be the only way this equipment was sold in France, I am a great admirer of places like B&H Photo. B&H, I should mention, is not just a web address with a warehouse you can’t actually go in to; they have a real store with everything out to pick up and mess with. Of course this store is in New York, not where you probably are, but places like it are one reason cities like New York are good places to live. The Bay Area has four serious photography retailers that I know of, and one is even in Berkeley.

However, the potential variety of inventory in most big stores is an illusion, and the less specialized they are the more this is true. Take CompUSA, which does have a presence near you, and many thousand square feet of it. CompUSA has a computer that watches sales like a hawk, and ruthlessly prunes slow-moving items, so the large rack of cables actually has no specialized or rare ones, but twenty hooks with the same five fast movers, the cables you already have two or three of . If you want something the least bit arcane, you are out of luck, because the maximum straight-face selling price of a special item does not capture its real value to the customer. I believe CompUSA no longer stocks any SCSI cables in its stores at all, though it has every known brand of blank CD in five different package sizes each.

Continue reading “The illusion of choice”