Monday, August 15, 2011

Sam: Johnson's Bookshop (Why the colon?)

As soon as I walked into this bookshop, just down the street on Venice from the Mar Vista Farmer's Market on Sunday, I knew this was not your average used book store.

There was a small group of people sitting there talking (one chose not to be in the photo.)

There was an unusual, casual intensity.  I was asked what sort of book I was interested in.  I really hadn't come in with anything in mind and asked about their specialties.  I hadn't paid good attention to what it said outside.

Their website, which confirms my initial reaction (well, maybe all private book shops are unusual in their own way), offers this history:

"Sometime in the `50’s two kids from Westchester High School found joy in ransacking Los Angeles’ second-hand bookshops together

Larry Myers, the precocious kid who knew all about everything.

Bob Klein, the unprecocious kid who didn’t.

Fired by fantasy, they’d root up whole bookshops hunting rarities by H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood—the list goes on. And what bookshops the city boasted in the 1950’s. Particularly in Hollywood. Pickwick Bookshop had a huge used book section upstairs; Cherokee Bookshop specialized in fantasy; Larson’s, in the ghostly and occult. The magic of THE BOOKSHOP cast a glamour that has not faded.

Some years later Bob went on to become a teacher.

Larry went on to become—but no one quite knows what he went on to become. Probably he is still becoming it.

Years later still, in 1976, in order to augment his meager academic earnings Bob decided to become a bookseller. His girlfriend of the time—the lovely Sheryl (whose hips stopped traffic)—backed him all the way. Otherwise he might have ended up selling aluminum siding. Not anxious to fail alone, Bob browbeat Larry into becoming his partner. For opening stock, each was responsible for amassing 5,000 books—exclusive naturally from the sacrosanctity of their own private libraries."

There were lots of interesting books in a variety of areas.  It would be a good place to hide out now and then.  I even bought a book because it raised issues in 1951 or so, that sound very current.  A philosophy book that I might post about later. 

I didn't ask about the name or the colon in the name.  That's for the next visit I guess.  But, of course, I have to check more on their website before I go on.  It turns out they address this on their website.

"Why the colon? It’s a little like asking Durante who Mrs. Calabash is."

They warn it takes a bit of the mystery out of life to know.  But if you must, it's here.

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