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Glenn Goldman, RIP

Book SoupbookstoresGlenn GoldmanLos Angeles

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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

 
Comments () | Archives (11)

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So long Glenn, you will be sorely missed.

I worked at Book Soup in the mid 1980s and remember Glenn well, as a gentleman with a wide-ranging intellect. He was smart and pleasant with occasional but regular moments of a gentle wry sense of humor.

And of course Book Soup was an delicious oddball institution, a tweedy (sort of) literary oasis in a vast un-bookish metropolis. And in those pre-Internet days, Book Soup's huge inventory of esoteric journals, small publisher editions and out-of-town and international newspapers and periodicals were an invaluable resource.

Rest in peace.

All of us in the book business are filled with sadness about Glen. I knew him for 25 years. We both owned bookstores. Mine was in Berkeley. We served together on the board of directors of American Booksellers Association.

Like all the best booksellers, Glen's store was filled with his own individual genius. There was no other store like it in America.

Glen was a major figure in the book business and even in show business. It never went to his head. He wasn't a name dropper. Although he was brilliant at seeing the humor in all the pretense.

We had a great time telling big fish stories to each other. He used to talk about how many copies of a $2000 art book he sold. I always had to counter with my sales of the Collected Works of Marx.

I learned a lot from Glen. I learned about the book business and what values were important to us. I learned a lot about what it is like to be a good father. I learned a lot about triumphing over adversity and doing it with humor and modesty.

We will all miss Glen. He was a good guy.

Andy Ross

A wonderful gentleman, a fine bookseller who ran one of the best bookstores I've ever known. I've a dozen titles on my bookshelves that he personally recommended, each a literary delight, and perhaps twenty more that he was kind enough to special order and ship to my home in Florida. Glenn will most definitely be missed. Fondest wishes to his family, and hopes for the many, many customers that Book Soup will find the right buyers to lead it into future decades of excellence.

I was there at the beginning.

I was working at Licorice Pizza at Sunset and San Vicente, and Glenn opened Book Soup when I was working there. The original place was a hole-in-the-wall, with a zigzag staircase lined with bookshelves leading to a small aerie where the art books were. It was a relief when the store moved down the street and there was some breathing room.

As time went by -- and we're talking 30 years -- I lost touch with Glenn, but I have remained an enthusiastic supporter of the store.

Ave atque vale, Glenn. You will be missed.

I'm very sad to learn of Glenn's passing.

My thoughts are with the family. I met Glenn 30 years ago and as others here have already said more eloquently than I can - he was a good man.

Glenn will be missed.

Book Soup and Duke's were centerpieces of my "neighborhood in exile" during weeks spent in Los Angeles reporting on various film related topics over a decade or so. The readings, the carefully curated selection of books and magazines, were superb. I browed the magazines in the evening, often finding some small press publication I hadn't known about. And more than once I bought so many books I had to ship them back to New York by mail. There was something about the layout of Book Soup---call it fung shui--that heightened the appreciation of the books on those shelves. And, am I wrong, wasn't there a cafe there for a while? I have memories of flying into LAX, checking into one of the Sunset hotels (Chateau Marmont, Mondrian, Bel Age) and rushing to Book Soup for a tuna burger with wasabi mayonnaise and a quick browse to see what was new. So sad to lose Goldman so young. And hope Book Soup survives.

I am a Santa Barbara author and Book Soup is one of my favorite places to frequent. My hats goes off to any bookseller today. Goldman must have been a special guy to keep the store going for so many years.

Diana Raab
author - "Dear Anais: My Life in Poems for You (2008,
"Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal," (2007)

I had the great pleasure of working with Glenn on the board of the American Booksellers Association in the late 80's and early 90's. I so enjoyed his intelligence and wit and, as our mutual friend Andy commented, his ability to cut through pretense. We knew Glenn in his single days and collectively enjoyed watching some of his humourous and amorous adventures. I've only seen him a few times in recent years but I'll miss him.

I also met Glenn as an employee at the corner record store from '77-'80. This was in the hey-to end days of the Strip's Punk scene, and to walk from a sidewalk teaming w/black leather, safety pins and broken beer bottles into the quiet, elevated ambience that was "Book Soup" was not unlike finding shelter from a tsunami . The aesthetic vision that Glenn had brought to that stretch of Sunset was beyond visionary; Not simply "random cool", but a reflection of Glenn's devotion to all manner of cultural observation, both the sacred and profane. No "DEVO" Calendars or "Black Flag" T-Shirts here. And good luck finding #1 Best Sellers like "So and So's Celebrity Work Out", sadly ubiquitous at the time . Eclectic inventory, yes, but yet a singular sensibility permeated every shelf. All selections hand-picked by Glenn, or one of his knowledgeable staff, themselves all chosen for their shared philosophy of what a great Book Store should be. I last saw Glenn in November, and he was the same gentle, unflappable man he was in his twenties, complete with the eyes that bespoke a mind working ten steps ahead of my own, yet always trying to downplay how brilliant he truly was. Sorry, Glenn. You didn't fool anyone. You will be missed, and thank you for helping to usher in an era where "Reading is Cool" again.
ron a. burla
Woodland Hills

Along with Andy and Chuck, I also became acquainted with Glenn and Book Soup from my stint on the ABA Board. I went there every time we held the ABA (not called BEA back then) in LA or Anaheim. Once, we had a fab dinner across the street at Spago. Good times.

That tribe of independents, many now shuttered, each offered a unique collection and personal recommendations. A visit to Book Soup always added to my book knowledge.

Little earthquakes shake Los Angeles each time one of the protectors of its threatened intellectual life dies or is defeated by cultural entropy, but the loss of Glenn Goldman is a temblor felt all the way out here in Chicago, where I currently live and write in exile. If not for Glenn and his staff, it's possible my literary output would never have gone past book one. When ENOCH'S PORTAL came out in 2002, way under the radar screen, Glenn made it a Booksense 76 selection, and when my second followed five years later, he gave me shelf space and a reading when I couldn't get arrested elsewhere. He was everything writers adore about independent booksellers. When I come out to read from NOWHERE-LAND at Book Soup on June 25, I hope he'll be hovering near. I'll feel pretty naked without him.


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