The Last Bookstore And The Masters Of Professional Writing
This past Friday night, it played host to writers from USC's Master of Professional Writing program. Students, faculty and the Los Angeles Times book critic David Ulin took to the platform in the middle of the store to hold forth on poetry, fiction and commentary.
One writer read a poem, 'Gentle Wave,' describing a judo match and its consequences. Another delivered a story that served as a semi-comic riff on Jorge Luis Borges's "Library of Babel."
It was hard to top Ulin, though, who started off an essay on his fascination with the Mafia by delivering a dramatic reading from Mario Puzo’s "The Godfather:" the scene where Sonny Corleone has sex with Connie's bridesmaid at her wedding. This drew quite a few startled chuckles from the audience and nearby customers.
Ulin related his childhood envy of Sonny's manhood, and later his admiration of Michael Corleone's cool reserve. Both impressions were later overshadowed when, as a young man, he moved into the neighborhood where infamous Mafia don John Gotti kept an 'office' in the restaurant across the street. The essay ended by describing a chance encounter with the mobster, when for a few moment Gotti scrutinized Ulin 'with eyes like a shark's.'
Afterward, readers and audience mingled and browsed the stacks of The Last Bookstore, examining the used paperbacks and vinyl records. Some even made a few purchases. The manager told me that the store was booked for a variety of similar events for the next few months, and a glance at the store calendar confirmed this.
I asked a member of the audience for his take on the evening, and remarks about the reading soon drifted into thoughts on bookselling and the state of publishing.
"It's hard to see how spaces like this can last the next five years in the face of Amazon and e-books," he said.
Nonetheless, the store is an inviting - and busy - space. Whether or not its name proves to be a prophecy, for now the Last Bookstore is a place to experience books as they were and as we loved them, before the advent of the tablet. It's worth a visit.
Reach contributor Joe Peters here.