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
Dutton’s hosted my second reading. I was part of an anthology of California writers (What Wildness Is This
, University of Texas, 2007), and we were
encouraged to invite friends and family. My elderly aunt drove out from
South El Monte with my cousin; old lovers and past business partners
showed up, as well as friends I hadn’t seen for years. It was a party,
and Dutton’s treated us like literary royalty. I’m happy to report that
their cache of our books sold out. I was scheduled to read another
piece in May, from
Latinos in Lotusland
(Bilingual Press, 2008), and while other
bookstores have agreed to host a reading, the warmth and welcome will
not be the same. I am disappointed and saddened at the loss of what
felt like family.
Read more from S. Ramos O’Briant at www.thesandovalsisters.com.
Like so many Los Angeles authors, I gave the
first public reading of my first novel at Dutton’s. Because my wife
sent out 500 e-mails and we served some tasty food (the spring rolls
were particularly good), there were more than 100 people there. I
signed piles of books, trying to give each person as original a
personal inscription as I could manage, and I was reduced to recycling
comments like “All best” and “Love, Seth” (depending on how much I
liked the individual I was signing for) after 20 books or so. When it
finally came time to read from The Bones that warm spring night, I
stepped up to the podium and looked over the faces of the crowd. At
that moment, I felt as if there was no finer thing in life than to be a
novelist making a personal appearance at Dutton’s. I will always be
deeply grateful to Dutton’s for allowing me to have my coming-out party
at their store.
About five years ago, in an age before my
son Gabe and daughter Allegra had heard of speed metal, I took them to
Dutton’s to see Lemony Snicket. They had been engaged by my nightly
readings from A Series of Unfortunate Events
(it had far more to do with the quality
of the writing than that of the reading), and I think we were somewhere
around book number six at that point. That evening we settled into a
packed house in the Dutton’s courtyard. I remember thinking, Here are
all these children waiting for an author of a book, and a good one at
that. There must be some hope for the future. Then a man called Daniel
Handler came out and informed us that Mr. Snicket was unavoidably
delayed and that he would try to hold our interest until the author
arrived. For the next 45 minutes or so, he had my kids (and, if I’m
being honest, me) completely in his thrall. He passed out spiders, he
told jokes. If I remember correctly, he played a musical instrument.
And I believe he read from the latest Lemony Snicket book too. From the
expressions on the faces of my children, you would have thought they
were at Cirque du Soleil. That this transporting literary experience of
theirs took place in the old-school confines of Dutton’s Books capped
And the midnight
parties, where Doug Dutton dressed up as
(I think) Dumbledore? Like the last one, where Allegra manned a trivia
booth and answered questions lobbed by younger kids with her friend
Rachel, who was dressed like Moaning Myrtle? Then took the book home
and read the 800 or so pages in 24 hours? Don’t get me started.
Seth Greenland is the author of the forthcoming novel Shining City.
Most people probably don’t realize how
generously they give counsel and share resources, and express mutual
appreciation, while still challenging each other.
Before we opened our own store in 1996, I had so many questions about how other owners and managers ran their bookstores, and I asked several of them to meet with me for a few minutes. The first [meeting was with] Margie Ghiz of Midnight Special, who had never heard of me before, but who had set aside two hours to walk me around her store, show me pitfalls and possibilities, introduce me to her staff, and give strong counsel about which books I should be sure to stock at Skylight. Richard Labonté of A Different Light let me spend three days shadowing him up at ADL’s San Francisco store, making sure I had access to absolutely everything they did: He made me unpack and shelve books; work at the front counter; sit in on his sales-reps meetings; learn how they did their Web site; watch him place his daily online orders; help his staff recycle. I remember I vowed that weekend that I wanted a staff that was as passionate, opinionated, knowledgeable and empowered as his was. I was so impressed that several of them had published some books, which were well displayed at the store, and I vowed that we would someday do the same. There are so many other stories of bookstore generosity — how many times has one or other of us discovered at the last minute that our full shipment has not arrived in time for an author signing? — and other independents have, without hesitation, loaned us their copies for the event. Just last weekend, Allison Hill of Vroman’s and I spent a long Sunday brunch trading resources and experiences about better ways to run our stores!