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Local Book Store That Fills the Bill

December 20, 1990

As a lover of literature I have hunted for favorites in used-book stores in Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States. To qualify for my continued patronage a store must meet the following criteria: (1) Provide a wide range including the classics. (2) Stock books in good condition. (3) Allow comfortable search by single-row presentation in alphabetical order under each subject heading. (4) Sell at a reasonable price. (5) Refrain from imposing discordant music or radio chat shows on the customer. (6) Leave the patron free to browse, offering service only when the desire for information or sociability is made evident. (7) Have book knowledge and sociability on tap.

Two years ago I came from Ireland to live in California. As I drove from Boston, via the South, I realized that American used-book stores score higher under these criteria than those of other countries. Los Angeles, I was to find, is particularly rich in vendors whose excellent service is only enhanced by an uncompromising individualism.

As I crossed the United States I searched in town and city for a good hard book copy of Dostoevsky's "The Idiot." Finally, at the very western edge of the continent, at 1018 S. Pacific Ave. in San Pedro, Calif. 90731, I was successful. It was a beautifully bound copy, was delightfully illustrated, and it cost me $3. In the background, a Schubert piano trio was just loud enough to soothe my mind without seducing my concentration.

James Kennedy, the proprietor, a walking encyclopedia of literature, approached only when I called for help among the neat logical shelves. Small wonder that I settled within walking distance of this book lover's oasis! A published poet, he has since introduced me to the best of American poetry, and much else besides. Each January he invites me and the public at large into his premises to celebrate Mozart's birthday. My modest libraries on both sides of the Atlantic have been largely furnished from his store at prices one-fifth of what I would pay in the British Isles.

I was surprised not to find mention of James Kennedy's store in your feature Oases for Book Lovers of Nov. 25. It deserves to be included among the best in the South Bay.

NOEL S. O'HARA

San Pedro

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