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Hangout Of The '90s

October 18, 1992

I think the new weekly feature on California bookstores is a great idea and I enjoyed the first three, but Book Review editors really goofed when they invited Margo Kaufman--a bookstore parvenu if there ever was one--to write about her heaven, BookStar (Sept. 20).

First of all, anybody who knows the terms knows that BookStar is not lowbrow, it's middlebrow: big and clean, yes, with as much character and excitement as the Soup Exchange or Blockbuster Video.

Secondly, to present bookstores as a debate between two camps-- stuffy, old elitist stores vs. sterile, new bookstores for the masses--might have been appropriate for 1970, but the variety, warmth, individuality and vitality of many of today's independent bookstores are establishing the bookstore as the meeting place and hangout of the '90s. It's obvious Margo hasn't been in a real book-lovers' Shangri-La, and the Southland has many.

I suggest to her Santa Barbara's Earthling Bookshop, a store with as many titles as BookStar, with chairs encircling a fireplace and a magnificent mural of authors looming behind the store's corner cafe; or, if Santa Monica's the place, Midnight Special's new store on the 3rd Street Promenade, where commitment to the community never falters. How about Dutton's in Brentwood, whose staff is congenial and knowledgeable and where one can see and hear a big-time writer almost every night.

At the very least, if one must trumpet the charms of the chains, choose Century City's Waldenbooks-owned Brentano's, the only store in town that carries and displays every book reviewed in the N.Y. Times Book Review, which, until the L.A. Times Book Review fattens up, is still the bibliomaniacs' bible. And, oh yes, all of these stores are not only Big and Tall, but clean and spacious.

MIKE HOEGGER, HERMOSA BEACH

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