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Link between F. Scott, Tupac speaks volumes

May 11, 2008|Carolyn Kellogg; Scott Timberg

What DO Tupac Shakur and F. Scott Fitzgerald have in common?

The classic novelist and iconic rapper were both avid readers, and both of their libraries have been publicly cataloged. Now volunteers have added them to the library-sharing site Librarything (www.librarything.com/). Other authors who've gotten the treatment are John Adams, Sylvia Plath, John Muir and Ernest Hemingway; in-progress are James Joyce, Charles Darwin and Rembrandt.

Sadly, Fitzgerald and Shakur didn't have any books in common. Tupac's collection reflects an interest in African American poetry, spiritual searching (books on Buddha, the Kabbalah, the Tibetan "Book of the Dead") and practical guides for the music business. Fitzgerald -- whose collection of 322 books is hard to categorize -- apparently read some contemporaries (Sherwood Anderson) while avoiding others (Ernest Hemingway). Hmm . . . bad blood? A question of taste? Librarything is like going to a cocktail party at someone's house and wandering off to check out their books.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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The tell-tale Edgar

The Mystery Writers of America (www.mystery writers.org/) awarded their Edgars (the annual prizes named for Mr. Poe) this month. I am no mystery expert, unlike my colleague Sarah Weinman, who writes the Dark Passages column at www.latimes.com/books, and I'm embarrassed to admit that usually many nominees are new to me. Not this year. Several came from another genre -- literary fiction, it's called, although I'm growing uncomfortable with this term. It seems presumptive: Is all other fiction nonliterary?

Anyway, the point is that Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, Man Booker Prize winner John Banville (writing as Benjamin Black) and National Book Award nominee Susan Straight were all up for Edgars this year. That's Literature with a capital L.

Straight took the short story Edgar for "The Golden Gopher"; it can be found in the anthology "Los Angeles Noir." I haven't read the story yet but I have been to the Golden Gopher of the title, one of downtown L.A.'s first seedy bars to get a high-end makeover. Other fiction winners include John Hart, Tana French, Megan Abbott and Tedd Arnold. Former L.A. prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi won the best factual crime Edgar for "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy."

I wonder, are the Edgars getting a makeover? Why nominate "literary" authors? Is mystery expanding outward? Or are other genres horning in on a lucrative market? What purpose do genre distinctions serve these days?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

-- A farewell visit

On THE day Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore ended its 24-year run, I went to say goodbye. I'd been to the March farewell party, but it was so jampacked it wasn't really conducive to a walk down memory lane. And I had to fight my confusion, as well-heeled Westsiders toasted the store, over why this community -- perhaps the richest collection of Americans outside Manhattan -- couldn't sustain a sterling bookshop.

What I was really looking forward to April 30 was to poke through the aisles and find overlooked treasures. Some rooms had been shut down, but what I think of as the main wing was packed with books in the best Dutton's style. And the place was pretty crowded. (That 60%-off sale couldn't have hurt.)

Doug Dutton was standing in the courtyard, shaking hands, hugging customers and beaming, dressed as if he were on a '50s cruise ship. (Does Doug own any clothing darker than cream?) He'd been busy shutting the place down, he said, but wasn't feeling depressed. He also mentioned that he was talking to "some interesting people," although he is still far from finding another home for a bookstore.

As I wandered the aisles, I remembered that some of my 2-year-old son's first books had come from Dutton's, and it was sweet to see a few mothers with babies walking through the store. Someday those kids may be proud to say they saw the place in its final days.

I have a question, which I suspect may never be answered, because Doug may be too gracious to bad-mouth his longtime landlord, billionaire investor Charles Munger. Was this popular, nationally respected store done in by a landlord reworking a space, or was it the wreckage of the deal for the satellite Dutton's in Beverly Hills? (Those town fathers approached Doug, let's not forget.) We may never know, but I'm still curious about what people are hearing.

-- Scott Timberg

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www.latimes.com/books

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