Talk, Don’t Read? As you may have heard, reading is dead. This has been proclaimed by none other than the ex–high priestess of magazine journalism (and at high pay), Tina Brown.
Brown is the former editor of Newsweek magazine (and may have helped kill it) and also the former guiding light of the New Yorker, the highly literate, informative organ that’s probably the nation’s best magazine.
I subscribe to the New Yorker and find it full of printed words and sentences that Brown, now that she’s off the payroll, apparently finds irrelevant. Her substitute for reading: the satisfaction of “live conversation.” Civilization, she says, is “going back to oral culture where the written word will be less relevant.”
This, I assume, would take us back to the pre-Gutenberg satisfactions of sitting around a freezing cave grumbling about the shortage of dinosaur meat.
The whole thing would be hilarious if you think of Brown, as a New York Times critic pointed out, “using the most advanced tools in the history of mankind to spread the idea that the civilization that produced them is doomed.”
Bookstores Dying? I also keep hearing about the death of bookstores. Ha, I say, ha! True, mass-marketing Borders and Barnes & Noble fled downtown a couple of years ago. But Mahri Kerley’s Chaucer’s on upper State is going strong after over 30 years, and Eric Kelley’s Book Den, dating to 1902, moved from Oakland to Santa Barbara in 1933. Granada Books, which recently bravely opened next to the Granada Theatre, is bright and shining, a delight with shelves of temptation.
Lost Horizon: Jerry Jacobs and Angela Perko opened their cozy bookshop at 703 Anacapa Street on a shoestring 30 years ago, and the place is thriving. While raising two children at the shop, they’ve built up a solid local clientele, offering paperbacks for college kids and rare and expensive used and antiquarian books ranging to $35,000 for a collection of original lithographs by Marc Chagall. Ansel Adams’s first limited-edition collection of photos, marked at $75,000, is locked in a safety deposit box elsewhere, but is available.
They opened 30 years ago, on December 13, 1983, and will celebrate with their first sale, 20 percent off, this week, Friday and Saturday, December 13 and 14. What’s the secret of their success? “It’s all about having good books,” Jerry told me.
Where does he get them? “We make house calls,” scooping up whole libraries from local estates. The buyers? Well, everyone. “I have a woman who comes once a year from New York, a serious collector and very wealthy.”
Jerry is a guy who rides a bike to work and takes great pleasure in his work. “I really enjoy selling books.”
Booked for Addiction: Some people drink too much during the holi-daze. Others eat too much. My addiction involves books that weigh too much. How else to explain why I churned through Laurence Leamer’s 928-page The Kennedy Men, then as a change of pace picked up Philip Kerr’s 848-page Berlin Noir, a three-novel fiction-reads-like-reality trip through the Nazi era and post-war Germany.
You’d think I’d have had enough of this diet of heavyweights. But no. I’m about to plunge into Robert Dallek’s highly praised JFK bio, An Unfinished Life, 1,290 pages, large-print, hardcover (and heavier than all three of my cats together).
But first came a diversion: Tom Williams’s The Life of Raymond Chandler, a mere 384 pages revealing how the famed private-eye author and screenwriter hit the top, then hit the skids, bathed in booze. (Many years ago, he briefly lived at 1419 De la Vina.)
I went back to the JFK saga, but after two pages, my fickle eye fell upon the sexy red-and-yellow cover of Bad Monkey, Carl Hiaasen’s latest ride into the lunacy of South Florida. And more are piling up on my bedside table. I need a vacation.
Pink Martini: Amid all this reading, I escaped to the Arlington for a great night with Pink Martini, led by diva China Forbes. She’s recovered from throat surgery and never sounded better. China didn’t disappoint the conga line, singing “Brazil” — where “stars were entertaining June, we stood beneath an amber moon and softly murmured someday soon …” (Presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures.)
New Vic: After an $11.5 million renovation, the old Victoria has become the New Victoria. Ensemble Theatre Company opened it last Saturday night with Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, on the boards through December 22.