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
But Doug Dutton certainly must be the epitomy of the generous, knowledgeable bookseller. When I learned that he had literally grown up in a bookstore — his father’s — it all made sense. He’s always been completely at ease in the environment. One time, early in our bookstore life, I ran into him at a performance at the Music Center and introduced him to my companion as our “competitor.” Doug smiled and looked at me in a slightly disappointed way. “ We prefer to use the word ‘colleague,’” he said. I never forgot that.
And then there was the time a grinning Doug unexpectedly popped into our store alongside his staff member Diane Leslie, who had written a novel due to be published shortly. He wanted to personally escort her to every independent bookstore in town to alert them about the book and give them a signed copy. I always remembered that, and was able to repeat the gesture when our own staff member Noel Alumit had his first novel published.
One night when our store was scheduled to sell the
books at the big annual PEN Awards dinner in downtown L.A., we realized
that we didn’t have enough of the Lifetime Achievement Award author’s
books! They hadn’t arrived in time. It was already late in the
afternoon and there was probably nothing to be done, but I called
Dutton’s Brentwood, even though it is almost an hour’s drive in the
opposite direction and I had no one who could pick them up and get to
the event in time. Doug got on the phone with me and said, “Let me see
how many we have, then I could get in my car now and meet you on the
street corner downtown!”
Kerry Slattery is the general manager of Skylight Books, www.skylightbooks.com.
Editing a literary magazine, reading
hundreds of manuscripts, I have a relationship with writers which means
communicating by mail, telephone and e-mail, and relying on the
particular trust that requires. Accepting a story or essay, identifying
corrections and sending proofs, sometimes over months, are acts of
confidence. I sometimes shape a vision in my mind’s eye of a physical
person, always wrong of course, which I discover upon meeting the
handsome corpus and hearing a real voice. Not the authorial voice, not
the persona imagined, but, as on the radio, somebody better and less.
Readings at Dutton’s were often the first and only time I met those writers. Impossible not to evoke Borges’ The Library of Babel and Fahrenheit 451 here, for all kinds of reasons. We hysterical, alarm-sounding bibliophiles, Perpetual Lamenters of the Dying or Uncherished Word, Chicken Littles crying over the pieces (pages) of the sky right there on the ground, we hate being right, and love being lost. Almost as much as we believe, simultaneously, in the perseverance of that hopeful/hopeless community of our fellow Grangers, book people who purposely confuse literature with life.
Moving room to room through the distinctive labyrinth of Dutton’s was like trying to solve that famous mathematical problem of the Seven Bridges of Konigsberg. Impossible, again, to walk down any one aisle just once, impossible to reconcile real life with possibility, and why would you want to? The weird architecture of the place is a tour through stacks with, thankfully, no solution but to trace your own Eulerian path — all wrong, all yours — and to discover along the way a fellow personification of the book standing there, or in the big west room or out in the courtyard, where an assembly of listeners on folding chairs sat while a real-life person read or recited as traffic passed by on San Vicente.
Difficult truths: Stores go out of business. We do not
deserve our writers. Books will not die. So, yes, Time has fallen
asleep in the afternoon sunshine.
Dutton’s was my bookstore too and I stood in line to get Amy Tan’s autograph on The Joy Luck Club
, and years later she asked for my
autograph after seeing my play Elvis and Juliet in New York City.
Dutton’s was where I got books and advice from Doug and his generous
employees. Dutton’s was where I stood beside Charles Bronson buying
Arrowsmith and Main Street
by my favorite author, Sinclair Lewis,
and had a brief but memorable conversation. Dutton’s was where Alice
McDermott read from
and Leah Stewart read from
Body of a Girl
. I will miss it terribly.
Visiting Dutton’s became a regular tradition
for my mom and me, a special occasion for us to bond over our shared
love of literature and sugary baked goods. As soon as we set foot
inside the store, I would dart to the “Young Adult” section, excitement
building inside me in anticipation of what inventively whimsical new
books they had received. I never really knew where my mom went during
the long time it took me to browse through books; maybe to the travel
section, or to the biography section, or to the cooking section — I
suppose it will always be a mystery to me.