Portrait of a Bookstore

Come in! Come in! And bring your mother!

After all the moaning about the demise of the beloved Milwaukee institution, Harry W. Schwartz Bookstores, in yesterday’s lamentation, I owe it to you to lift your spirits with a glad post. Here’s a bookstore which seems to be thriving. Maybe because they’ve hit the right formula. Remember how the St. Charles indy bookstore, Townhouse Books, was described in these scrolling pages? A bookstore with a cafe? Well, Portrait of a Bookstore inverts that: it’s a bustling cafe with a bookstore attached.

Waiter, there's a flyleaf in my soup!Aroma Cafe wraps the tiny bookstore on three sides, so you have to wend your way around tables and diners — we wound up lost in the alley before we unlocked the secret of the labyrinth: you must look for the sign above the door.

A Jamesian allusion? And if so, then huh???

Put the door to its proper use: enter. Oh cool, look: there’s Neal Stephenson’s latest novel, Anathem! I love that book.

Hey, look! Neal Stephenson's *Anathem*! Man, I love that book!The bookstore itself is small and crowded, but not cramped: it’s more like jumbly. Books abound, as you’d expect, but so do all kinds of tchotchkes, bric-a-brac, whatnots and funsies. Me, I bought a copy of Bill Buford’s Heat for Madame Nicework. For Daughtergirl, a lizard ring:

The herpetalogical spirit burns brightly in our household.

Purchases in hand — or in Daughtergirl’s case, on hand, ho ho — we put the door to use once more, only pausing to stare insolently at the diners who gave us no mind.

You may buy a toy here if that is where you heart lies.

Could I have found this charming, secret, little bookstore without the aid of the maps at Indiebound Books? A preposterous notion! That fine Web tool exactly pinpointed the store’s location — Studio City; The last gasp of Valley civilization before the grim passage over Mulholland into the degraded depths of Hollywood. Portrait of a Bookstore is hidden behind the Aroma Cafe at 4360 Tujunga Avenue. Tujunga runs north/south, and 4360 is about, oh, halfway between Ventura Boulevard (to the south) and Ventura Freeway (to the north). If you go there, you will experience joy. If you fail to go there, sorrow will follow you all your days and your children will curse your name.

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