MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Still with books, here is a pre-obituary for the loss of an especially well loved book store that still survives, but not for long. Dutton's Books in North Hollywood, that's here in L.A., will be gone next week, after almost fifty years. Reporter Gloria Hillard stopped in to browse.
GLORIA HILLARD reporting:
Well, this is definitely not your Borders or Barnes and Noble. There are no cardboard displays with this week's New York Times best sellers, not even and Oprah's picks table. The chipped linoleum floor of pink, chocolate brown, and green covers the store and about five decades. And there's not a whiff of espresso with soy milk, unless the aroma coming from the coffee pot with the glowing red light and stash of Cremora counts.
Mr. DAVE DUTTON (Owner, Dutton's New Old and Rare Books): And I love to offer anyone within earshot a cup of coffee, and that's about as far as we've gotten.
HILLARD: That's Dave Dutton, owner of Dutton's New, Old, and Rare Books as the now rusting sign reads. He was 23 when his father asked him if he would mind running the store. Today, the man who says he never intended to be a book merchant is 69.
Mr. DUTTON: It's been a college, an additional college education. It's been a succession of graduate degrees without portfolio.
HILLARD: A knowledge and love of books and poetry that he has shared with so many over the years.
Mr. DUTTON: Well, I'm glad you came by.
Unidentified Woman: Yeah.
Mr. DUTTON: I'd say Dutton's is four thousand square feet of the best that's been thought and said in the world, and also a little of the worst, probably. I like to think that you could come in here and walk out of here a fuller and wiser individual than when you came in.
HILLARD: Like customer Suzanne Saunders, who was making her way through the literary labyrinth, past the hand-labeled sections like Nancy Drew, the classics, modern fiction.
Ms. SUZANNE SAUNDERS: The books kind of want you to discover them.
HILLARD: One of her discoveries was a book of drawings by Mary Petty, a cartoonist for the New Yorker in the twenties and thirties.
Ms. SAUNDERS: I mean, there's just no way I would have ever come across this unless I came here. Just no way.
HILLARD: Customer Natalie Knight was looking for the book she read when she was little.
Ms. NATALIE KNIGHT: Just for no reason. Yeah.
HILLARD: She's twelve now. She finds the ambience of this store quite different than a chain store, which she describes as:
Ms. KNIGHT: I don't know, kind of robotic, maybe. And I like this one, because it kind of has a home feeling.
HILLARD: It's a home where the books live, someone said. Where long-forgotten authors and poets whisper to the silver haired landlord, over here.
Mr. DUTTON: Why don't you look right here and see if there's something new.
Unidentified Female: Okay, thank you.
Mr. DUTTON: You're sure welcome. I'm going to miss dealing with the kids and the future readers of America. That's going to be the toughest part of it. The gratification you get for just talking books, living books, breathing, sweating books.
HILLARD: But after nearly a half century of living books, Dutton felt it was time to say goodbye. He'll be closing at the end of March. I asked him if he had any final thoughts. To that he replied:
Mr. DUTTON: I don't think another thing need be said. Let's go read for a while.
HILLARD: For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.
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