By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
When he’s not at the store, Dutton teaches music composition at a local community college. He used to think English was the most useless of degrees, but then he discovered music, which beats English by plenty (he has degrees in both). And yes, he’s joking. I ask him which he loves more, books or music. He frowns. “Why don’t you ask me which child I love most? The great testaments of mankind’s aspirations and hopes are contained in both of those.” Then he tells me that the chair I am sitting on, the one beside the plant with leaves poking me in the neck, is the one that Esa-Pekka Salonen usually sits in.
We’re sitting on the patio outside the bookstore’s small café. It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and customers stop by every few minutes to say hello and then when they leave to say goodbye, like visitors at a housewarming. “I’ll be the first to chain myself to the doors when the bulldozers come,” says Derek Shearer, a Clinton staff aide, former undersecretary of commerce and former ambassador to Finland.
“He’s a great mystery reader,” says Dutton as Shearer leaves, bag of books tucked under arm. “[President] Clinton was once interviewed about what he was reading, and of the list of books he named, Derek had recommended half of them.”
A Dutton’s clerk comes over with a broken stapler.
“See?” says Dutton with a smile. “This is what I do, fix staplers.”
Then a little old lady and her little old husband, both of them as cute as can be, stop by. “Doug, I want to get my granddaughter a graduation present,” she squeaks. “She did her thesis on Jane Austen. What can you recommend?” Dutton thinks for a moment. The girl in question, a second-generation shopper, used to come in with her mother when she was a baby. She is 21 now. Dutton knows her mom, her father, her grandmother and grandfather. “Workman Publishers came out with a nice book on Austen called The History of England,” he says finally. It has an introduction by A.S. Byatt and paintings by Austen’s sister Cassandra. Dutton scratches his beard. “But if she’s doing a college thesis on Austen, she probably knows that one. I’ll have to look around for something more offbeat.”
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, none of Dutton’s kids want to go into the bookstore business. They are turning out to be graphic designers, publishers, musicians. Doug is the last of the clan still in the business, his brother Davis having closed the North Hollywood store a while back due to health problems. (His oldest brother, Denis, edits the Web site Arts & Letters Daily from his home in New Zealand.) When he retires, Dutton says, he trusts that people will come up in the ranks to keep the books going.
“I’m going to a meeting in Culver City,” he says. “It’s becoming an arts city and they want me to move there. They need a bookstore. I don’t want to move, but it’s good to keep your options open. They’re gonna twist my arm.” Pantomiming, he yanks his arm behind his back and winks. A Brer Rabbit wink. When I tell him I’m going to go home to finish a book, he seems genuinely envious. “Can’t I just go over to your house and read?” he says.