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Glenn Goldman, RIP

January 3, 2009 |  6:32 pm

Booksoup_1

Here's some absolutely dreadful news to start the new year: Glenn Goldman, founder and owner of the West Hollywood independent bookstore Book Soup, died today of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 58.

I knew Glenn for a long time ... 18 years, to be exact. He was a charming gentleman: shy, smart, exceedingly well-read and committed to reading and bookselling and the literary life. He founded Book Soup in 1975, on the Sunset Strip, across the street from the old Tower Records, down the block from the Whiskey and Duke's Coffee Shop.

Over the years, Book Soup has become known for the celebrities who shopped there; its motto is "Bookseller to the Great & Infamous." For me, though, it is and always has been a neighborhood bookstore. Maybe that's because the first time I ever saw the place, in 1986, I was visiting the neighborhood, staying with a friend who lived a few blocks away. One Saturday morning, we spent an hour or so looking through the floor-to-ceiling shelves, ordering hard to find titles from England and having them shipped to my apartment in New York.

Five years later, when I moved to Los Angeles, Book Soup was one of the first places I came back to, and ever since, it's been a regular stop. When my son Noah was little, I used to take him there so he could play on the library ladders. I can't count the number of readings I've attended at the store, the books and magazines I've bought, the conversations I've had.

In every way that matters, you can chalk that up to Glenn. He set the tone, both intellectually -- the store reflected his tastes and interests, in art and film and fiction -- and in terms of personality. The staff is among the nicest I've encountered: smart and a little bit shy also, enthusiastic about the books. And writers love to read there, even though the space can be a bit unwieldy, because they know that this is a place where they'll be treasured, where their work will be treated not as commodity but as art.

According to a post this afternoon on LA Observed, Book Soup is looking for a buyer; I hope they find one soon. After all, in a very real sense, Book Soup is Glenn's reflection -- a place of decency and intelligence, iconoclasm and aesthetic vision. In a cookie-cutter world, there are far too few such establishments, the bookstore as neighborhood salon. This was Glenn's great talent and his legacy, his lasting gift to us all.

-- David L. Ulin

Photo by Carolyn Kellogg

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