See, Hear Ray Bradbury At LB's City-DoomedAcres Of Books: Passionate About Bookstores, Dismayed At Disappearing Bibliophillic Outlets
(June 26, 2008) -- Ray Bradbury, whose Fahrenheit 451 described a future in which critical reading was banned and "firemen" burned books, came to Long Beach's gargantuan "Acres of Books" bookstore on June 25, a downtown icon purchased by the city's Redevelopment Agency and conveyed to a private developer for uses that don't include a bookstore.
Media and fans attended, but no Long Beach officials were visible as one of America's greatest living writers appeared within a few blocks of City Hall.
LBReport.com captured Mr. Bradbury's passionate and heartfelt remarks on video and audio. We provide them in on-demand form below. For video, click the embedded image below.
Some transcribed excerpts:
"Right now there are no bookstores in downtown L.A. That's terrible. That's stupid, isn't it?...There's no really big bookstore, Pickwick used to be there, it was a very important bookstore..."
"Libraries are better than schools. You can't go to a University and get a diploma. It doesn't mean a goddamn thing. You've got to go to a bookstore and a library and educate yourself. You go to a bookstore and find yourself. The surprises that you find on the shelves are you, represent the things that you need, not that the teachers need..."
"You do what you love and love what you do...So diplomas are not worth a damn because you come to the bookstore...I can get a complete education in this bookstore. I wouldn't have to go to a school. All the books that I need, I'd pull off the shelf, one after another, I'd open them up and there I would be. I come to this book store for the revelations of myself and I will find me in this bookstore. That's what bookstores and libraries are all about. Schools don't do that for you."
"[A]ll the talk about education only is important if we begin to teach books to three year olds, so we start teaching three, four and five year old children how to read and write so by the time they get to the first grade they know completely how to read and write. They they can go to libraries and bookstores..."
"...[B]ookstores should be the center of our life. There's no bookstore in Venice, California right now. There's no bookstore in Ocean Park. There's no bookstore in Beverly Hills. Jesus Christ, how dumb can you get! There's not one bookstore in Beverly Hills! All those stupid people, wandering around, looking for ideas. That is such a dumb place. That's why I'm here...This is my home."
"I love this place. I love the smell of it. When it used to rain...I'd come to Long Beach, I'd come here to the Acres of Books and I'd go in the back. The back section has a tin roof, and you can stand there, with the rain beating on the tin roof, making you feel good. And you're picking up the books. and you smell them, and you're alone with your loves in Acres of Books. That's why I'm here."
"If this place could be kept here, if you're going to build a mall, they should build it around here. They should be the center of the mall. They should be a shrine. They should have a crucifix up in front. I will come and bless the goddamn place. And I mean that. I want this store to remain here and they can build a mall around it...It should be surrounded by other fascinating stores. It shouldn't be moved. It shouldn't be changed because it's the best bookstore in Long Beach and one of the best in California."
"There are ten million books here and other bookstores have a couple of thousand, and they don't smell the same way. An old book smells like Egyptian incense. It's great. It's wonderful."
"I'm offering my spirit. I have no money. I'm offering my love, so I'm going to call the Mayor and say...'Do you love it? Will you help me save it?' So I hope to get the Mayor to join me with this love and come over and put his arms around ten million goddamn books. I'll call him so help me God I will. So that's the essence. I think that's news, don't you?"
Acres of Books (in business for roughly 75 years and at its present 240 LB Blvd. location since the 1960s) is one of a number of independently owned, lovingly overstocked new/used bookstores that have vanished from the L.A. area.
LB has two franchise-style "Borders" bookstores, one within a few blocks of Acres of Books as part of the "Pike @ Rainbow Harbor" development and another in ELB/Los Altos on Bellflower Blvd. Also in ELB are two "Barnes & Nobles" stores, one in the Marina Pacifica center on PCH, another in the Towne Center (Carson St. near 605 freeway).
With all due respect, none are like Acres of Books in content or character.
One can take hours savoring the offerings (often up close and nearly personal with other browsers) along its tiny, thin aisles.
The sun faded sign below says, "We may have the book you have been looking for! Thousands to select from. It costs nothing to inquire."
Acres of Books is required to vacate by May 2009, after which the building will be demolished. It may close as soon as this fall.
Demolition has already begun on adjacent buildings.
The property was purchased by the city's Redevelopment Agency and conveyed to a developer for what city officials call the "Broadway Block project" that will include [City Hall release text] "residential and commercial developments, as well as a public art center."
The location is in Long Beach's 2nd Council district, represented by Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal. Her City Hall website notes that she holds a Ph.D from USC in Policy, Planning and Development.