C.J. and I visited Los Angeles this past week to see the James Kerry Marshall retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the same show we saw last summer in Chicago. We’ve become big fans of Mr. Marshall’s work.
It was a mad-cap three-day trip–drive down, day in L.A. and drive home–but we managed to visit three bookstores while we were there. We stayed in West Hollywood, just a few blocks from the Sunset Strip area which is all very nice now, very high-end and very young. We walked down to Melrose Place for breakfast coffee at Alfred’s, which serves beautiful people beautiful lattes. Lots of window shopping at high end antique stores afterwards on the way back to our very cheap motel.
Up on Sunset, near Book Soup, we found our new favorite bookstore, Mystery Pier Books Inc. which sells only first editions. It’s a small store in a small building behind the main buildings. You have to walk down a very narrow alley, the kind typically used as a service entrance, to get to the store which means very few customers find it. There were just four of us in the store Wednesday afternoon. The clerks are friendly and helpful, the selection is wide and fascinating, and the prices are high. I can’t say if they are too high since I have no idea what a mint condition first edition of Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show is worth. It was more than I could afford in any case.
We made it out of Book Soup without going over 100 dollars which is nearly a miracle. My standard for quality bookstores is based on how many titles they carry that I’ve never seen before but have to have. There were many at Book Soup. C.J. found several, too. I’ve already started The Familiar by Mark Z. Danielewski which, turns out, has been on the market for nearly two years now though this is the first I’ve heard of it. 25 dollars and the first of four volumes, all four were on the shelf at Book Soup. I resisted and resisted, but gave in in the end. I loved The House of Leaves which I highly, highly recommend.
The next night we went to The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A. since the museum is just a ten minute walk away and C.J. had never been there. The space is wonderful, inside an old bank. The galleries and studios on the mezzanine are lots of fun, but if I stick to my standards, I have to admit that it’s not that great of a bookstore. And I feel their prices are always one or two dollars too high. We left glad to have visited but empty-handed.
Mr. Marshall’s artwork, which we drove down to see, shall speak for itself.
In Chicago we spent our time trying to figure out what all of the images in each painting meant, what their history was, what they had to say socially and politically. This time we were able to appreciated them as beautiful paintings. If you get a chance to see the show, see it.
Finally, on what is a rainy Easter morning in the Bay Area, I’ve been thinking about hosting a reading challenge. I’ve been collecting Jane Austen novels, I’ve only Mansfield Park to go before I have all six of them, for a couple of months now. I’m not hunting for them, just checking for them when I’m at a used book sale, looking for very cheap copies of each or for the Vintage Classics edition because I like the cover art. My plan is to read them all in order once I have them, one book a month.
Is that something people would like to join in.
Maybe call it The Jane Austen Read All-along?
It would start in July with Sense and Sensibility and end in December with Persuasion.
I think it would be fun to do the same thing with Elizabeth Gaskell in 2018, though it will be harder to find cheap copies of hers here in America. She’s much more popular in U.K
I may set something up later this month if people are interested.
Meanwhile, I’m reading away though I’m not finishing much lately. I did read one of from the Brilliant but Short list, Jenny Offil’s Department of Speculation which was excellent though it has started to blend with the main plot of Danielewski’s The Familiar in my memory. I’ll have to get a review up soon. Besides that I’m still working through the first volume of Kevin Starr’s history of California. Add to that the Danielewski book which is too large and heavy to read anywhere but on the dining room table and the essays in the James Kerry Marshall catalogue which I bought at great expense–art books come at a premium. Also I’m reading Chan H0-kei’s The Borrowed in chunks since it’s made up of five separate stories featuring the same characters.
And it’s back to work tomorrow now that spring break has come to a close.
38 school days left, but who’s counting.