Goodbye, Dutton's!

Judith Freeman

When I think of the many readings I’ve attended and given at Dutton’s, one always stands out: a Sunday afternoon, many years ago, a program of readings by homeless writers, with a smattering of L.A. literary celebs. We were each to read for 10 minutes, no more (in their dreams). One literary celeb, who will remain unnamed, ignored the time limit, seduced by her own voice, her brilliance, and droned on for a good half-hour with no indication she intended to quit her perch. Her story, I remember, involved a kind of quasi-incest scene between a college-age girl and her rich father, some fondling and flirting, all breathlessly intoned, meant to be shocking, perhaps, but instead banal. I stood next to one of the homeless, a black man patiently awaiting his turn but nonetheless listening carefully to her story. When madam finally quit the mike, he turned and looked at me, smiled and said, rather wickedly, “Sounds like she kinda liked it, doncha think?” I find that I can never think of the woman who read that day without those delicious words passing through my head.

Goodbye, Dutton’s! Thank you, Doug, and everyone else who over the years helped to make that place so brilliant; the intellectual dispensary of the Westside.

Judith Freeman is the author, most recently, of The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved .

Diane Leslie

As host of a zillion author events at Dutton’s Books, I have a snoot full of anecdotes. Among them: Eduardo Galeano spinning magical tales on the spot; Mario Vargas Llosa being suave in three languages; Anne Rice in Goth; Allen Ginsberg drawing pictures of erect and dripping penises in the books of young men (and I got a Buddha!); T.C. Boyle always asparkle and Kate Braverman winningly sardonic. Jennifer Egan so gracious. Susanna Moore beguiling. Robert Hughes was drunk but nonetheless learned and articulate. Edna O’Brien was jet-lagged, medicated and in bad temper and yet flashed her love of Shakespeare and Yeats. Jonathan Franzen, not a literary bully, just bleary-eyed and anxious. Who will shepherd these authors now?

Diane Leslie had her own book signings at Dutton’s for Fleur de Leigh’s Life of Crime  and Fleur de Leigh in Exile.

Janet Fitch

I began haunting Dutton’s in the early ’80s. At least once a week I’d come, as a pilgrim, to witness some luckier writer read from a published work. I wanted so badly to become a writer — and I needed to hone my envy and ambition by seeing famous people wallowing in the limelight. Far more satisfying than just desecrating their pictures in Poets and Writers. The pleasure of examining the new fiction on the front tables, the reassurance, sitting on the floor in the front room at Dutton’s, reading (at length) from works I could only aspire to one day write, knowing I, a reader, was in the only safe place I knew in Los Angeles: the Palace of Reading.

When someone kindly asked, “Are you finding everything you’re looking for?,” I looked up and there was this incredibly handsome silver-haired man with bright-blue eyes talking to me as if we were friends. Me, this rejected piece-of-shit writer whom he didn’t know from Adam. Who nobody knew from Adam, and if they did, they tried to forget it as quickly as possible. But not at Dutton’s. Doug Dutton made my nothing self feel like a valued friend. This was a place where readers mattered. And it’s a standard to which I’ve held every bookstore, and which few approach.

It wasn’t just Doug, it was everyone he hired. I’ve never seen a bookstore with such a knowledgeable staff. I remember going in once to find some book I’d read about. “It’s something about a girl who had something about her face … an accident or something?” And Kristen said, “Oh, you mean Autobiography of a Face . It’s in the north room. We should have two copies.” Ever after, when I go to a bookstore and ask for a book, and they don’t know whether they have it or not, have to look it up on the computer, I always think, “You’re not Dutton’s, are you?”

When I finally did have a book (a young-adult book nobody had ever heard of, then or since), I timidly called Lise Friedman, the event booker at Dutton’s. Heart in mouth, I asked for a reading. I was local, I promised that all my numerous relatives would come and each buy three copies of the book. And wonder of wonders, the day came when I stood in the courtyard of Dutton’s, where I had seen such jaw-droppingly important writers as Robert Stone and Joyce Carol Oates, reading my newly published novel to 30 of my closest relatives, plus the pantheon of struggling L.A. writers who had been in workshop with me at one time or another, who themselves eventually had their own readings there. When you read in that courtyard, you truly had arrived.

Each of my first readings have been at Dutton’s. White Oleander, before it was an Oprah book. Paint It Black at the Beverly Hills store. I used to go see my shrink right across San Vicente, and then jaywalk across (they should have had a bridge) to the one place where my neuroses wouldn’t be shoved in my face, a place where everything was always as it should be, where you were wanted, respected, catered to. There will never be another Duttons’. I know time moves on, things have their season, and we were lucky to have had it. All I can say is, thanks for the memories.

Janet Fitch is the author of the novels White Oleander and   Paint It Black.

Denise Hamilton

In July 2001, my debut novel came out and I did the first signing of my career at Dutton’s. I was so nervous, but Diane Leslie put me at ease with her lovely literary manner. Several weeks later, I got a surprise note in the mail from Doug Dutton. He had read The Jasmine Trade and was writing to convey his enjoyment! I was stunned that the legendary bookseller would take the time to write me a letter. (And not an e-mailed one, either). We also had a phone conversation about the book, in which he asked me thoughtful, enthusiastic questions.

I hung up the phone feeling a bit stunned, like God himself had tapped me on the shoulder and I’d been initiated into a literary club that was both elite and egalitarian. I felt like I had “arrived.” But I know now that Doug made all authors feel special. He truly liked them. Books were his passion, and I was surprised to later learn about his second passion — music. Most people I know don’t have time to cultivate one, let alone two such artistic loves.

I’ve signed at Duttons for all five of my novels as well as for the Los Angeles Noir anthology I edited. It’s a warm, inviting, bookish place and my signings there have become an integral part of my book tours. I will be very sad not to visit the store in July when my new novel comes out. It will seem as if my book tour is incomplete, like something is missing. Los Angeles is a poorer place for Dutton’s passing and for the dispersal of its talented staff, who are as passionate and engaged about books as their boss.

Denise Hamilton is editor of Los Angeles Noir  and author of the upcoming The Last Embrace.

Aimee Bender

I grew up with Dutton’s. I remember when it was just one store; slowly it spilled into the whole courtyard, and years later, I had my first reading there. I guess I think of Dutton’s as an irresistible combination of L.A./N.Y. sensibilities — the world of readings/authors/city events that I often associate with New York, but in a very Los Angeles courtyard, with the trees, the outdoors just reaching into the books, the easy browsing from one part to the next, the low-key feel. I’m having some genuine trouble imagining the book world in this city without it. It seems pretty certain that the loss of Dutton’s will mean sad head-shaking and sighing, for years and years, while one is driving down San Vicente.

Aimee Bender is the author of, most recently, Willful Creatures: Stories.

Timothy Steele

Purchasing a book at Dutton’s has always involved an intellectual exchange more than a commercial transaction. When, for instance, I picked up the Library of America’s edition of John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy, Doug told me of a friend of his who had read the work years earlier on a transcontinental train trip. This led to a discussion of the ways in which Dos Passos was a student of our nation’s landscape as well as of its social history, and from there we passed, by steps I can’t now reconstruct, to Felix Mendelssohn’s life and letters. And I remember having similarly lively conversations, on other visits to the store, with Diane Leslie about Philip Roth, with Scott Wannberg about contemporary poetry and, most recently, with Nancy Rudolph about Dick Davis’ great new translation of Fakhraddin Gorgani’s Vis and Ramin , the medieval Persian romance that is the probable source of the story of Tristan and Isolde. Thinking of Dutton’s, I’m reminded that in Latin, “profession” involves the taking of vows and bringing things to light and advancing them. Doug and his wonderful staff are deeply and irreplaceably professional. They’ve supplied us not only with books, but also with intellectual companionship and illumination. Bless them all.

Timothy Steele, author of five volumes of poetry, is a professor of English at Cal State L.A.

Nancy Spiller

My Dutton’s story is the tragedy that I, a soon-to-be-first-time-published L.A. novelist, will never experience Doug Dutton’s kind attentions and tender usherings of my literary effort. As a book buyer, what am I supposed to do? I walk into a Borders or a Barnes and Noble and get knocked back by the stale breath of a dying culture offering countless variations of vomit and piffle in both hardcover and paperback. I’m not going to be able to walk down their aisles and stumble across The Complete Writings of Emily Carr like I did at a friend’s book signing at Dutton’s a few years back. Why, I didn’t even know Emily Carr was a writer, I only knew of her as an eccentric Canadian painter of the early 20th century. And I only know a scant few other people who know of her at all, and they’re Canadians. I found her there, on the shelf at Dutton’s Brentwood, and it helped me continue on toward my own novel’s finish line.

So, here I stand, ready to collapse into the concerned arms of Doug Dutton as together we were going to conquer the few remaining novel readers on the Westside. But I have a plan. Between the closing of Dutton’s and my novel’s publication, I will do whatever is necessary to find Doug’s home address so that I can do a reading on his front lawn.
That’s my plan. Anyone who enjoys a good book and a good time and knows Doug Dutton’s home address, get in touch. Together we can make magic, we can avert tragedy — just like Dutton’s Brentwood used to do.

Nancy Spiller is the author of the forthcoming Entertaining Disasters: A Novel About Women, Madness and Home Entertaining.

Kristin Burcham

Having had the privilege of being a bookseller at Dutton’s for 10 years, I have dozens of memories, ranging from literary conversations with notable authors to only-in-L.A. celebrity encounters. Most of us were on a first-name basis with our customers; I was especially flattered by those who came to trust me so fully, they would read anything I recommended. Early on, I met a frequent shopper, with whom I discussed books on a regular basis. One of my recommendations to him was Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love, which we were both passionate about; clearly he appreciated the personalized service our staff provided, and I sold him dozens more books. One day, I came out from behind the counter in the west room, and he asked me out to lunch. Much later, when I finally saw the bookshelves in his home, I discovered, to my chagrin, multiple volumes on his shelf unread — in fact, that had never been opened! Most of our courtship took place around that magical courtyard, and when I walked down the aisle, Doug and Penny Dutton provided the live musical accompaniment. Reader, I married my customer.

Lola Willoughby

Who I’ve seen and what I’ve purchased at Dutton’s not in any particular order or inclusive because I can’t remember everything Isabel Allende reading it was pouring rain outside she looked at everybody in the audience directly in the eye and it felt like she could be your lover Pat Barker Regeneration Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried the Bible King James version Janet Fitch reading Kicks in the afternoon sun night readings at 7 o’clock Samantha Dunn a woman fainted at her Not by Accident reading Mary Rakow The Memory Room Amy Wallen we had moon pies and sat on the bench in the fiction section then went out to dinner to celebrate across the street at the larger of the two Italian restaurants and made quite a commotion for book lovers buying Christmas presents every year the book about Olivia the Pig Dennis Lehane paperbacks long lines for Tom Wolfe and Gloria Steinem barely able to see or hear Joyce Carol Oates but Jane Smiley was tall like a cornstalk Mother Country Gilead and The Death of Adam in hardcover Housekeeping in paperback Spanish-English dictionary for a class I took at UCLA Plainsong The Marrow of Tradition Curious George at the Parade Mariette in Ecstacy Darkness Visible Days of Obligation The Last Bongo Sunset Eudora Welty and William Trevor Collected Stories The House on Mango Street Stones of the Sky A Natural History of the Senses I was going to buy The Corrections but Jonathan Franzen in the courtyard complained so much about the traffic noise on San Vicente I didn’t and haven’t read it to this day bringing Grandma Harron and Hillary O’Connor age 2 to buy her very first book on a Saturday afternoon and going to the Hamburger Hamlet afterwards where she got chicken-tender grease and ketchup on her new book it was always my dream when I got my first novel published that I would read at the Dutton’s Anita Santiago reading one of her odd and alluring short stories The Fellowship Roger Friedland’s elderly mother sitting on an outside bench in a row with her lady friends sipping wine and mineral water so proud of her son one night I’m not sure who was reading I think it was a poet and an unkempt heavyset woman who was either somewhat troubled or a poet herself or both sat down on the floor blocking the path but no one minded because the path was always blocked during readings Diane Leslie introducing an author and saying he gave her more pleasure than her husband it might have been Howard Norman standing in line with one slim Little Golden Book for free gift-wrapping years ago when they had a used-book section bought a copy of The Great Gatsby for two dollars which had belonged to a seventh-grader.

Bruce Bauman

Dutton’s was the first friend I made when my wife and I moved to L.A. from New York 10 years ago. Really. My wife had one friend. I had some names; a few people I’d met once or twice, but no friends. Not yet. After one week of the El Niño downpour I was prepared to go home. Home, if not NYC, meant a bookstore. Books were and are my life. I’d heard about Dutton’s and drove from our temporary place in Topanga — got lost — to Brentwood; I knew it was near where O.J. had killed Nicole. Finally, I pulled into the back parking lot and then walked through the courtyard to ... Valhalla! The “friends” who had sustained me through many a lonely, bleak time in New York, heroes all, were just sitting there on their shelves.

In time I made many, many great friends in L.A. It is my home now. But still, there are days when I need those special friends, when I slide into Dutton’s and just lose myself. Now, where the hell am I supposed to go on those days?

Bruce Bauman is the author of And the Word Was: A Novel.

A.M. Homes

I love Dutton’s. Not only did I first read there (what seems like a million years ago), I shop there every time I’m in L.A., sending books back to NYC for my own work, and more recently sending children’s books home to my daughter. This is very, very sad news.

A.M. Homes is the author of This Book Will Save Your Life  and The Mistress’s Daughter.

Kerry Madden

I gave my very first reading from my first novel, Offsides, at Dutton’s in 1996. My son, Flannery, was 8 years old, and he wanted to wear a tie to my first book signing (one of the few times in his life that Flannery, now 19, has ever worn a tie!). My husband was working that night, so I had both kids with me. I didn’t have time to put on the tie (or know how) so Doug Dutton taught Flannery how to tie his tie before my reading. Dutton’s was the store that invited me to read when other stores said no. From the very beginning, they have supported me and so many other new authors, and I will miss them very much.

Kerry Madden is the author of the Maggie Valley trilogy — Gentle’s Holler, Louisiana’s Song  and Jessie’s Mountain  — and is currently writing a biography of Harper Lee for teens.

Rita Williams

The very first reading of my memoir, If the Creek Don’t Rise, took place in May of 2006 on a balmy Sunday afternoon in that lovely Dutton’s courtyard, with my friends sprinkled up and down the stairway and arrayed around the tree. It was both a thrill and an honor to find my own work among that collection of books on the big table in the west room. I had found a haven there for years. Tucking myself into some nook with a cup of coffee and finally emerging with that “have to have” book that would keep me up all night reading. I cannot begin to express what a loss this is — to me, personally, as well as to the community.

James Brown

Of all the bookstores where I did readings and signings for my second novel, Final Performance , my best experience and turnout were at Dutton’s. I remember Doug treating me kindly and generously, all the more meaningful because I am a pretty unknown writer. The thing about Doug is that he didn’t distinguish between midlist, poorly-selling but hard-working writers and the bigger, successful ones, and I’ve long respected him for it. It’s a shame the doors are closing, and a real loss for L.A.

James Brown is a novelist and memoirist.

Mollie Gregory

Losing Dutton’s is like losing a safe home — for writer and book. My first time at Dutton’s, I’d written a novel and figured I’d sketch the story then read a paragraph. That was fine, but then I went to a Carolyn See reading. She plunges into the meat, serves up a page or two or three, maybe a short chapter! I wrote more novels. I found that readings in other stores, particularly the chains, were like attending an office meeting. And they aren’t held in the bookstore’s garden (like at Dutton’s) with homemade food cooked by the author’s kids! The people at Dutton’s know books and like books. I could trot into the store, name a title, and they had it or they didn’t — but they knew of it. What a concept!

To Doug and Dave, the constants, to Diane Leslie, Kathleen Matson and many others over the years: You helped writers, you made writers feel good. And you invited us to read the work we’d spent a year or 10 writing! I cherish the times you gave all of us.

Mollie Gregory is the author of Birthstone and  Privileged Lies.

John Shannon

In the mid-1980s, after publishing several well-reviewed general-fiction novels, I was effectively blacklisted — blackballed would be more accurate — in New York because my writing had taken an increasingly political turn. I insisted on publishing a manuscript called Taking of the Waters, which was a three-generation saga of the American Left. I had one offer — from a major publisher who shall remain nameless — but only if I took out the middle third, which was about the Communist Party. After that, even my agent (at the time) stopped responding to me.

A few years later I founded a tiny press called John Brown Books to publish the manuscript myself. I drove boxes of the book around town and, despite a fine review in the L.A. Times , got treated like a pariah just about everywhere, like some self-published whacko with a spiral-bound book about how to run your car on tap water. A few stores took a few books, but only on consignment. I finally went to Dutton’s and Doug himself came out to meet me, talk to me warmly, introduce me to his staff, buy six copies and pay for them on the spot. I felt human again. I was almost crying. I’ll never forget that gracious afternoon and what a gentleman Doug Dutton was to me.

?John Shannon is the author of the Jack Liffey mystery series.

S. Ramos O’Briant

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

Seth Greenland

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 it.

And the midnight Harry Potter 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.

Kerry Slattery

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!

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,

Andrew Tonkovich

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.

Andrew Tonkovich edits Santa Monica Review.

Mary Willard

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 copies of 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 Charming Billy and Leah Stewart read from Body of a Girl . I will miss it terribly.

Mary Willard’s musical Moon Shine!, with music and lyrics by country legend Marty Stuart, will open at the West Valley Playhouse in Canoga Park on March 28.

Miranda Gendel

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.

After we had each picked out our books, we would meet at the little cafe at the back of the store for a scone and some tea, glancing over our new purchases and sharing knowing looks about the quirky characters the store appeared to constantly attract. There always seemed to be a few serious, intellectual types at the next table overearnestly discussing the qualities of the newest Philip Roth novel. I used to dread going home, because it meant leaving that perfect place that was like another world to me, filled with myriad dusty, obscure books and an intimate, inviting quality that became so singular to Dutton’s for me.

Miranda Gendel is a freshman at George Washington University.

Sonya Sones

I celebrated the birth of each of my four books in the courtyard at Dutton’s. In the welcoming embrace of that cozy courtyard, surrounded on all sides by those fabulously overgrown secret gardens full of books, I partied on. Doug, Aurora, Gretchen, Lise, Diane and all the gang had a way of making me feel like family — supported, nurtured, loved and appreciated. Dutton’s wasn’t a store. It was a story. When it closes its doors at the end of April, a chapter will be ending for all of us. But I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel.

Sonya Sones has written four award-winning young-adult novels-in-verse, including What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know.



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