"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Part of the Soup

True story, I once skipped town on the very day I had landed an interview to work at the formidable Book Soup. It was 1998 and I was a scared kid from Kansas. I'd only lasted two months in Los Angeles and the city was just too...Los Angeles for me at that time. I slinked home with my tail between my legs, convinced I had blown it. I eventually hit reset and made it back to California the way kids in their twenties do.  Like a gambler, convinced they just need one good hand to win the table. The house can't always win. It just can't.

I missed Glenn Goldman, the owner and founder of Book Soup when I skipped that interview.   I wonder now if he would have hired me and who I'd have become if I had stayed put and worked here then.  I can't spend too much time on it; life takes its time getting you anywhere and sometimes nowhere.  Mostly I think he'd have taken a pass on me, and the truth is I needed time to be a better reader and bookseller.  I kept selling books and made it back in early 2011 but I missed him. He had passed away from pancreatic cancer by then.

As we get ready to celebrate 40 years this week he's very much on our mind. Mostly things like, why did he open his bookshop on the Sunset Strip? And why did he call it Book Soup? And how did he ever land Muhammad Ali for a book signing?! I wish I had met him.  He's familiar to me the way a favorite author is.  He has a presence here in the store, and not in a ghost-y way.  He lives with the books, with the great and infamous who have shopped and signed here.

When I knew I would be moving back to L.A. from San Diego I made a stop by the Soup on a lovely autumn day. I browsed the aisles for quite a bit of time, reading the staff selections that jutted out from the shelves like panting tongues.  I heard voices in conversation and laughter from behind the rare books case (presumably from the break room) and I wondered if there could be a place for me here after all.

 I met Amy on that visit and I bought a copy of Just Kids from her.  I devoured that book just as she said I would.  It's the perfect Book Soup book; a book that makes you feel good when you buy it and even better after you read the last page.  You'll give it away 10 times and always buy another copy. I asked for an application too.

I'm very happy to be here now, and for however long they will have me.  I'm grateful I met Paige and Manny, for all those Saturday mornings with Fawn and Jagger, and for the chance to sell books with Emily and Sue who I swear are maybe the best booksellers ever! And of course Tosh, a sort of Jedi master of all things literary.  I read better now - and more, things that would have never interested me before. 

It wasn't easy being new, learning the staff and the customers (who truly are the best) and getting my legs here but I did. I remember hoping Jagger or Fawn would eventually like me and being relieved when both did.  I think of Jagger a lot (gone now too) and still expect to see him sometimes curled up in a ball behind the register sleeping or maybe keeping watch a little bit, over Glenn's shop, our shop. 

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