Monday, January 22, 2007

All the news fit to print

Patty here...

Our J covered this news last Friday, but it’s fabu enough to repeat. Mega congratulations to fellow blogmates Cornelia Read (Best First Novel) and Paul Levine (Best Paperback Original) for their nominations for the Edgar Award. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Edgars, they are judged awards presented annually by Mystery Writers of America at a gala dinner in New York City. Only five books are chosen in each category from hundreds of submissions, so it's a huge honor bestowed on a writer by his/her peers. In fact, the Edgar is considered the Oscar of crime writing. I might also add that our own Jacqueline Winspear’s novel Maisie Dobbs was a nominee for the Edgar for Best Novel in 2003. It was only the second time in the history of MWA that a first novel was nominated in this category. Let’s all raise our Dark and Stormies to Team Naked. In fact, let's raise our glasses to all of the nominees, especially to FONA (Friend Of Naked Authors) Naomi Hirahara.

It snowed in L.A. last Wednesday. Yup. I kid you not. They were building snowpeople in the Republic of Santa Monica. It’s been cold for the past week, but an unexpected storm plowed through the area, blanketing Westside streets and the canyons above Malibu with snow and pea-sized hail, which I learned is called graupel. Who knew? All this leads me to believe that “when hell freezes over” may be sooner than we think.

I have a friend who sold his business when he turned 50. I asked him why he retired so young. He said he looked at his bottom line and decided that even though he wasn’t rich, he had “enough” and didn’t want to waste the rest of his life accumulating "more."

Charles T. Munger, are you listening? One-point-seven billion dollars is what Munger’s Bershire Hathaway stock is worth. I’m sure he has other investments in his portfolio, but that’s not bad for a single stock. Apparently it isn’t enough, which is why he’s tearing down the buildings that house a funky Westside independent bookstore to build a “mixed use” development with shops and trendy condos. As if L.A. needs more of those, especially in the traffic-clogged Westside.

The threat to Dutton's Brentwood Books was covered on the front page of the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, January 17th, right next to headlines like “70 killed in Baghdad university bombings” and “Obama raises stakes among Democrats.” We Angelenos make up the largest book-buying market in the U.S. That this story made the front page of a major newspaper gives you an idea of its importance.

According to the article,
Dutton’s, with its irregular layout, ripped carpet and books overflowing their shelves onto old flagstone floors, is considered by many to be not just a city institution but one of the nation’s great idiosyncratic bookstores. What’s more, in a neighborhood where median housing price approach $2 million, neighbors fear the loss of a quirky, laid-back community gathering spot.

The Brentwood store is the last of the Dutton’s triumvirate. The original Dutton’s Books and Art closed last spring after almost fifty years in business, and Dutton’s Beverly Hills store closed at the end of 2006 because the city of Beverly Hills refused to renegotiate the rent for its property to allow the bookstore a fighting chance at survival. Just goofy, since bookstoreless Beverly Hills spent years enticing Doug Dutton to move into the area. And BH was a beautiful store. My mother bought her first copy of False Profits there, and I held two spectacular launch parties at the Brentwood location pictured below.

I hope the Dutton’s story has a happy ending, but it won’t unless somebody other than my retired friend explores the distinction between enough and more. I understand the property belongs to Mr. Munger and he has a right to develop it, but he's in his 80s and at some point shouldn’t he ask himself how many billions are enough? Even in our money-grubbing, bottom line business environment, isn't there anything besides wealth that's worth preserving?


  1. Bundle up and stay warm down there, Patty!

    I wish I could be in NYC on the day, to cheer on Cornelia, Naomi and Paul. Guess I'll have to settle for a long-distance Dark and Sormy raised in their honor.

  2. FWIW: from Huntington website at

    Thanks to a generous gift of $21 million from Los Angeles philanthropists Nancy and Charles Munger, the first expansion of the Library in more than 20 years was completed in July and opened to scholars in November of 2004. The 90,000-square-foot addition, located to the north and east of the Library's current research building, provides much-needed space for The Huntington's growing collections of rare books and manuscripts, as well as expanded facilities for scholarly studies, curatorial activities, conservation, education, information technology, and photography and digital imaging.

    Anyone sense a disconnect here? Surely someone has pointed it out to Mr. Munger. Anyone? Anyone?

  3. from Jacqueline

    Oh it makes me sick, just sick, when these stupid over-rich magnate types wade in and break up a community to make more money, then pay lip service with their donations to get the tax breaks. Sorry to be so cynical, but the fact is that most of these really uber-rich are paying less tax than you or I, and probably literally, not just when you consider the percentages (why, for example, do you think they all plant avocados and oranges or grapes on their estates? Not because they like being farmers, but because they get farming tax breaks!)

    I am thrilled for the Huntington Library, with its rare books and manuscripts, but why not do something that connects literature and the written word with ordinary people, not just "scholars." Oh, how elitist can you get?

    Thank heavens Cornelia and Paul have given us something to smile about. Yay again, and again.

  4. What an eclectic column, Patty.

    Perhaps it's time that Mr. Munger realized the Hell is indeed freezing over, and he should enter into a creative and innovative partnership with Dutton's, for the benefit of all involved. Indeed, Paul and Cornelia could be the headliners announcing the new and mutually beneficial venture.

    Perhaps there would be a mystery Tucker available to consult? I believe that Mr. Munger could afford her services--in either specialty.

  5. Louise, I will be checking from afar, as well. Think they'll be able to hear us?

    Mims, what irony. Maybe you, Our J, Jeff and I can start a movement. Jeff, Tucker is definitely available to consult.

  6. Louise, sheesh! That's CHEERING from afar. Proof-reader, please.