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 .
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.
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?”
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.
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
Paint It Black.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Things They Carried
the Bible King James version Janet Fitch reading
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
The Death of Adam
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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. www.kerrymadden.com.
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.
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.
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
Mollie Gregory is the author of Birthstone
and Privileged Lies.
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 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!
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. “
prefer to use the word ‘colleague,’” he said. I never forgot that.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.