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December 5, 2004 - If LA is illiterate, why are there so many great bookstores here?













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Book Wrangler

Sunday, December 5, 2004

By Bob Patterson

 

Los Angeles has been hit with a bum rap.  It seems that most folks in flyover country think of Southern California as being a place full of illiterate dumb actors making Hollywood movies.  Actors have become President in one case and, now, there is a new contender who needs a Constitutional Amendment before he can be nominated for that office.  The acting profession has, in the past, also supplied one member of the US Senate, George Murphy.

 

Los Angeles has always attracted top-notch talent from the writing profession and bookstores are plentiful. 

 

Even the local car wash, Sepulveda West, has an array of books for sale.  It’s not an airport selection of the top forty paperbacks.  They have Penguin classics and a variety of cookbooks and books on the fashion world. 

 

Los Angeles has several bookstores that specialize in films, acting, and theater.  In previous columns we’ve mentioned the store that specializes in books on cars and airplanes.  There are several bookstores that specialize in the mystery genre and our favorite is the Mystery Bookstore in the nearby Westwood section of Los Angeles.

 

Another bookstore in the neighborhood, the Writers Store specializes in books about writing (especially movie scripts) for writers.  They also offer computer programs with formats for writing movie scripts and others that will teach movie script writing or analyze one in progress.

 

In Hollywood the Samuel French bookstore specializes in theatrical book especially plays.

 

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The Larry Edmunds bookstore, also in Hollywood, specializes in movie related material such as biographies, autobiographies, scripts, publicity stills, and many books about the art of the cinema.

 

Several bookstores specialize in horror and gothic.  We tend to go to Dark Delicacies for our purchases in that genre.

 

There are many great used bookstores in the LA area and the biggest is Acres of Books, in Long Beach, established in 1934.  It’s a browser Valhalla.

 

The bookstores listed above are just some of this columnist’s personal preferences.  There are more.  There are also those that we haven’t visited yet but would like to someday.  Exploring new bookstores isn’t usually one of the joys of Southern California listed in the travel brochures - it’s our little secret. 

 

The national retail bookstore chains have numerous outlets throughout Los Angeles County for those who gotta have the book du jour that was plugged on the talk shows last night.

 

Many members of New York’s literary fraternity were lured to the West Coast by the lucrative work the film industry offered.  When World War II became inevitable some German writers moved to the US and settled in Southern California.  They were followed by British writers who wanted to remove themselves from the battle zone.

 

Writing a book chronicling the literary heritage of Southern California would be a formidable task. 

 

In the past, wasn’t the now defunct Bruin Book Company bookstore, called the BBC and located near UCLA, open twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year?  

 

Who wants to go the “starving artist” in a cold garret in Paris route to literary fame, when there is the alternative dream of someday getting the opportunity of pitching a movie director behind you in the Alberston’s check out line and becoming an inspiration for writers around the world? 

 

While living in Paris, Henry Miller wrote: I have no money, no resources, no hopes.  I am the happiest man alive.  For the wealthy world famous literary figure phase of his life, he moved to the Pacific Palisades part of Los Angeles. 

 

Does Paris have any store (let alone an assortment for comparative shopping?) that sells surfboards and related material?  (Que est la Sex Wax?)   In Los Angeles if you get writer’s block you can always find inspiration by heading out for Surfrider Beach in Malibu and giving the old college try to the hang ten way of achieving nirvana (also known as “getting stoked”).

 

Here are just some of the books for sale in Los Angeles that we noticed last week:

 

The Daredevil’s Manual by Ben Ikenson ($9.95 paperback Barnes & Nobel).  If your mother-in-law can literally spit fire and drive nails into her head (like a geek in a circus sideshow) wouldn’t you like to read a “don’t try this at home” book revealing how you could duplicate those feats?

 

Citizen Hughes by Michael Drosnin.  This book is being reissued as a film tie-in for fans who may want to learn more about the famous flyer, movie maker, and former Los Angeles resident, Howard Hughes, after seeing the new film The Aviator later this month.

 

The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood by David Thomson ($27.95 Knopf) - See, didn’t we just tell you someone should write a book on this subject?

 

Poe's Heart and the Mountain Climber: Exploring the Effect of Anxiety on Our Brains and Our Culture by Richard Restak ($22  Harmony Books published November 23, 2004).  Can you read about anxiety without thinking about script writers?

 

Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman  ($26.95 Atria Books).  Actors go on the road around the world on a motorcycle.

 

Persepolis 2:The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi  ($17.95 Pantheon published August 31, 2004).  A memoir done as a comic book.  Now, there’s a book an actor can read.

 

Hard News:The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media by Seth Mnookin  ($25.95  Random House November 9, 2004)  Didn’t the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly sum it all up when he said: “Such is life!”?

 

Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News by David T. Z. Mindich ($20 Oxford University Press published August 4, 2004).  We thought only folks in LA were allergic to reading.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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