One of the things I’ve really missed about San Francisco lately is the proliferation of used bookstores. Though I am generally anti-acquisition (I must tame the clutter beast!) I really enjoyed browsing at Dog-Eared/Phoenix and the mecca, Green Apple, when I was looking for something new to read. Down here we’re walking distance to a few new bookstores (one indie, one chain) but I was looking for a used bookstore so I could replace my falling-apart 1964 Scribner edition of A Moveable Feast. Buying the book new was unfathomable: my well-loved copy had been pressed into my hands by my best friend Laura at a Half Price Books in Dallas 12 years ago (this date I know because the sales receipt is still tucked into its pages). I was looking for something that would have the same feeling of history and serendipity and definitely lacked the New Book Smell. But as I looked around I realized that L.A. is decidedly weak when it comes to used bookstores. Most of the used bookstores listed in various directories are antiquarian and collectors’ bookshops, which are not at all my speed.
But today I agreed to accompany D to the wilds of Burbank to check out Book Castle’s Movie World in search of movie press kits for use in a multimedia presentation. Though we struck out thoroughly on our stated mission, Book Castle was the find of the day. Among the haphazardly stacked shelves and unopened boxes of books along the floor there was only a rough pretense of organization, which made for excellent exploring. With a focus on movies, the store included stacks and stacks of film histories and analysis (many of which were no doubt out of print), working scripts, and press materials.
Two separate cookbook sections (far more cookbooks than I’ve ever seen in a used bookstore) gave a thorough survey of cooking trends from the 1960s to the present time, with a few historical books of recipes for household cures from the early 20th century. Stacks and stacks of magazines and other periodicals dating back to the 1920s filled cardboard boxes on tightly-packed shelves at the back of the store. The fiction section was massive, with all the classics of American literature represented in multiple editions, as well as more contemporary novels. Art, too, was exhaustively full of coffee table books on every major artist and artistic movement known to man.
When I picked up a book among the screenplays there arose a giant cloud of dust; indeed, the predominant sensory memory I have (aside from the overwhelming number of books available) was of my nose tingling at the smell of mold and dust. I sneezed most of the way home, but I can’t think of a worthier cause.
Though I saw a lot that I wanted, I limited my purchases to a slightly worn 1996 Touchstone edition of AMF (which I’m happy to say is identical, except for the cover, to my familiar Scribner edition–same typeface, same pagination, and even the same handful of historical photographs). But I suspect my library will grow significantly now that I’ve found this store.