Goodness, my dear, of course apartment 680 is still the finest place in Los Angeles to spend time – the Rawkus and Stax stacks, the many Wax Po issues that you may hold and look at after you’ve washed your hands (please), the infamous big blue couch, an afghan made by my grandma’s own two hands (hi Bill!), a bag of cherries from Vons. 680’s been able to maintain its relevance in a time of newly-opened bookstores downtown and sunny days that make the sidewalk sparkle, ready for me to walk down it in a sundress while the “Hyperbolicsylablahblah” instro plays in my head. You simply must stop by apartment 680 during a trip to my city, Los Angeles, as it is the
best place in town second-best place in town after the Battle Station recreation a lovely place to visit, third-best place in town once you’ve been to the recreated Battle Station and this fantastic new bookstore at 4th and Spring with 1000-ft. high ceilings and some sort of dead animal’s head on the wall.
Everybody knows you have to be stompin if you’re born and raised in Compton, Big Sean keeps claiming West LA, of course you got the Fairfax contingency, there’s scary stuff in some places but you ain’t gotta worry if you stayin north of Wilshire, and half my almost-famous rap ex-boyfriends have falsely claimed Nickerson Gardens, but let’s not forget downtown, a noisy paradise, tribute to masonry – it’s tall and cool and well-built, much like myself. And The Last Bookstore is there. They didn’t have the Robb Report, but I made it through, and nothing I bought was more than $4! Lovely! Then I wrote a post about it in which I listed the books I bought in order of how excited I am to read them.
7. Alice McDermott, Charming Billy. Our protagonist Billy was charming, of course – but the back cover tells me he was also a guy from Queens who loved poems and had a bit of a drinking problem, which is a slam-dunk in terms of getting me to take my dress off (sorry, Mom).
Would this book’s title make a good mixtape name? Yes indeed! This is obviously what Danze was talking about when he started dropping hints a few months ago.
6. Alice Munro, Hateship, Courtship, Friendship, Loveship, Marriage. You can’t really go wrong with Alice’s stuff, and I liked The Love of a Good Woman. Short story collections are my weakness, as are stories set to music and told by masked, monotoned big-boned gentlemen from New York.
“His face contained for me all possibilities of fierceness and sweetness, pride and submissiveness, violence, self-containment. I never saw more in it than I had when I saw it first, because I saw everything then. The whole thing in him that I was going to love, and never catch or explain.”
Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn. While its title is the same as that Ghosty/ODB buddy-cop soundtrack album that nobody ever heard (Rifkind shelved it in ’94), I would have bought this book anyway because Lethem seems to be a good dude who would probably forgive my shameless posting of pics from the bathing suit gallery. Motherless Brooklyn also won something called the “Gold Dagger” award for crime fiction, thereby making it the book with the most tangential Wu associations currently in my collection. (Gold Dagger is that Rae mixtape from ’03). And Lethem’s first book was called Gun, with Occasional Music, a name that is just begging to become a mixtape title.
Edward P. Jones, The Known World. If I paid better attention to Zinn I’d probably have known that there were days when free black men owned slaves. But who has time to read some wacky liberal’s version of history. Who has the tiiiiime. I am a busy lady. Those bathing suits and records aren’t gonna buy themselves, you know. I’m curious to see whether this one’s any good, because at first glance it seems like it must be pretty bad, just a terrrrrrible concept for a story – like, oh goodness, I don’t know, Tarantino’s latest move of cinema stuntery, making a feature about slavery? Just off the dome, you know, that’s what hit me: QT’s future film, the apex to be reached in the realm of bad ideas. However, Jones’ book has gotten great reviews and it does sound like an interesting tale (former slaveowner leaves his human “property” to his widow; it is unclear whether she will free them; narrative tension ensues). It’s been called “a sprawling story built around a morally bankrupt social institution,” which is not about the music industry but about slavery (that’s the same thing!, Prince would argue, because he’s turned into somebody old and cranky).
4. James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. That title would fit in nicely at the top of this blog, directly under the header, to prepare my readers for the massive amounts of MC groin-area-riding that I do so lovingly in my posts. The phrase is from the Bible, a fact I was unaware of due to being raised by heathens in a southern California weed den. (I loved this upbringing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a tiny bit wistful for my non-childhood of going to church and hearing all those fantastical tales and beautiful phrases in the Bible).
This one was an instant purchase once I held it and turned a few pages, because the book’s just nice looking, beautifully laid out – a mix of straight narrative form with some poetry and photos, which is what happens when you get a professional photographer (Evans) and writer with an unfair level of skill (Agee – poet, film critic, journalist, etc.) to collaborate. These 2 wrote about poor white people before Yelawolf made it the hot new thing; it’s a classic and I’ve never read it, so I’ll read it now because it’s the morally appropriate thing to do. Also I am vain and don’t want to appear foolish; if someone asks me if I’ve read it but I have to say no, I’ll be embarrassed, like what happened with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance until I finally cracked it open at age 16. “The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you,” Pirsig informs us – the machine, of course, being your motorcycle, your earthly human body, your old Rawkus records, or any number of breaks you have in your collection. “There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.” Amen, brother.
Would or would not be a good mixtape name? Would! It sounds like a ’90s-rap-music-homage mix that someone would do, then email me about to try to get me to post it. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, hosted by JuJu and Craig Mack. Valiant effort, sirs, but the only ’90s-homage mix I will ever recognize is that time 9th Wonder was at the Do-Over. It was perfect. I’m writing this from my spaceship that orbits Saturn. Earth had nothing more to offer me after I heard his set.
3. James Campbell, Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin. Chosen because James Baldwin managed to be dignified, all the time, goddammit, despite living in a country with hostility toward gayness and blackness, and despite having to listen to contemporary Norman Mailer yammer on about the coolness of blackness (and generally thinking about coolness way too much to ever be cool). I salute you, James Baldwin: professional dignified person, excellent writer, and, most importantly, ideological road-paver for Lil B.
Talking at the Gates would be a good mixtape title, though only in the right hands (Monch, Scarface, Banner); Chris Brown would try to get away with it as a theme tape (songs about his relationship with Jesus; “the gates” being those of Heaven) and then I would be forced to hire someone to assassinate him for being such a bratty, pretentious moron. It would be the morally appropriate thing to do.
2. Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. At #2 because I’m told Mr. Jones had some type of career as a music producer, and I enjoy reading about such men. He also had a fondness for, shall we say, ladies of a certain… look. Tupac hated that, but I happen to think it’s pretty OK since I have this particular look! I win! Oh – except that being a blonde-haired nubile female beginning a romance with Quincy with the hope that he will treasure you even as you age and your body becomes less than stunning is some pretty fierce delusion. He makes babies at a rate only rivaled by Rod Stewart, or maybe Shawn Kemp? Or no, wait – Cromartie? But you can’t fault Peggy Lipton or Nastassja Kinski or ______ (blonde nubile female, take your pick) for wanting to be near the dude, or at least I can’t; like Chappelle said when they asked him to justify his claim that Michael Jackson was innocent of any crime: “He made Thriller. HE MADE THRILLER.” Who doesn’t want to sit at the kitchen table and eat eggs and toast with such a human, even if you know there’s heartache coming up when you are inevitably replaced by the next lady in his life?
1! Graham Marsh and Glyn Callingham, The Cover Art of Blue Note Records. Nothing in it is as stunning as the image on that new Adrian Younge album, but still! It’s Blue Note covers! Of course it’s #1 on the list. Random page I flipped to that happened to seal the deal: Dexter Gordon, Our Man in Paris. I mean, c’mon. How could I pass it by. “You’re coming home with me, darling baby,” I said to the book, clutching it to my (very attractive) bosom.
– Another Hit It and Quit It jazz edition just feels right to listen to after a bookstore adventure. It’s just really beautiful, plus I learned about the existence of one Spanky DeBrest. Baddest name in all of jazz-cat-ery.
– Joe Tex – “Buying a Book.”
– COMPANY FREAKING FLOW.
Ten steps Eight steps ONE STEP to Perfection. (that step is clicking the link, silly). I believe a certain concertgoer put it best on the evening of July 16, 2011 A.D.:
The Last Bookstore
453 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Pros: Good books; cheap books; AC; it’s about 2 miles from apt. 680; staff leave you alone when you’re walking and browsing; “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” started to play on their sound system right when I walked in. This really happened.
Cons: None. It’s heaven.