Friday, June 26, 2009
The Fast-Disappearing Bookstores of Los Angeles: Cosmopoiltan Book Shop
FBC! Guest contributor Renee Montgomery continues her series of visit to LA's bookstores on the verge of extinction:
Cosmopolitan Books, 7017 Melrose (just east of La Brea), West Hollywood
“Great man. Great book.” Cosmopolitan shop owner Eli Goodman waves The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell at me, “but no one buys it! No one buys books!” 51 years in business. Now going out of business. Being kept alive by orders for 5,000 or 10,000 indiscriminate titles at a time, Eli explains, -- no doubt orders for set decorating purposes.
Top five experiences L.A. will miss with Cosmopolitan’s closing:
1. The serendipitous discovery of first edition treasures, from Aubrey Beardsley to Letters from Laura Ingalls Wilder from San Francisco in 1915, -- not to mention thousands of elusive out-of-prints, and assorted other quirky old tomes. (I recommend for lovers Mary Johnston’s To Have and To Hold, or Sir Walter Scott’s The Castle Dangerous --$5).
2. A Counterculture section that just screams “L.A.”: witchcraft, erotica, Kaballah, Steve Allen, Stella Adler!
3. Cosmopolitan clerk Charles’ personal stories at the drop of a hat – for instance, accounts of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley -- related in his Charming Clerk Charles way.
4. Aging proprietor Eli’s unsteadiness on his feet, bringing down stacks of Modern Library as he trips but still lucid on so many subjects, e.g., Louis l’Amour’s reading habits
5. The most fascinating customers: a dapper elderly gentleman inquiring “Do you have the biography of Farouk I?” Young girls searching through vintage magazines for something?
The last of a dying breed. Cosmopolitan Books. Dusty, yellowed, crammed, cramped, ten foot ladders to heaven-sent shelves. Host a birthday/anniversary/holiday party there. Buy everyone a round of books. Make it a meeting spot for blind dates. Be green there. Be your most stimulating there. C’mon L.A.. s-t-r-e-t-c-h!
[Guest blogger Renee Montgomery works at a large L.A. art museum. She reads about 1 out of every 4 books she buys, but especially the ones on animal husbandry or Native-Americans]