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A Week in Culture: Chris Weitz, Director, Part 2

October 7, 2010 | by

This is the second installment of Weitz’s culture diary. Click here to read part 2.

Photograph by Summit Entertainment.


The Times reports a boardroom struggle at Barnes and Noble. I have little sympathy for the big book chains, as they have played such havoc with the independent book market. Los Angeles, contrary to popular prejudice, used to be a great bookstore town; there was Midnight Special1 on Third Street and the late, much mourned Dutton’s, which used to be my favorite bookstore in the world, not least because it was arrayed in three different buildings around a courtyard, and no one thought twice if you exited one building with a pile of books under your arm without paying, because you were on your way to a different department. That sort of expectation of civility is lacking these days2. Nowadays Book Soup seems to be the only holdout3 in the city, and they have recently been acquired by Vroman’s, the Pasadena independent. Most of all, I lay a curse upon Borders, who sucked up masses of customers by convincing people that bookstores were social venues with DVDs and coffee bars, and then imploded spectacularly, having put dozens of mom-and-pop places out of business.

Part of the blame goes to Amazon, of course, which means part of the blame goes to me4. Still, I comfort myself with this thought: Books sold in actual space, even books on actual paper, may die off5; but the instant accessibility of books, the lower cost, the preposterous speed of acquisition, may lead to a more ready consumer. I buy more books because I have a Kindle, and because they cost less, I am more willing to take a flier on a book that I might otherwise not lumber myself with.

In the meanwhile however let me recommend Heywood Hill on Curson Street in London. Among other things, they are fantastic at locating hard-to-find volumes, and when the third volume of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy was unavailable in the States they were more than willing to send it to me. But if you happen to be in the area you can stop by for events, such as when Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was at the shop to sign copies of her eagerly awaited memoirs Wait for Me! The Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister.” My editor, Pete, tells me that the Mitford sisters would spread jam on their butler’s head to attract wasps away from them. I hope this is apocryphal.

On the way home from work, I listened to the Disinformation podcast, a bunch of clever Southern misfits covering the occult, conspiracy, and esoteric beat. This time it was an interview with occult historian Gary Lachman, who also happens to have been one of the founding members of the band Blondie.

In bed tonight, Mad Men seemed a little too much of a harsh toke so we took it easy on ourselves with The Mighty Boosh, the absurdist British comedy. I had the pleasure of meeting one of its contributors, Richard Ayoade, familiar to a select few as Dean Learner from Garth Marengi’s Darkplace (can’t explain, just watch it). Richard’s first feature, Submarine, just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was picked up6 for distribution by the Weinstein brothers.

Still concerned with a cryptic statement of Heraclitus as reported in Anthony Gottleib’s The Dream of Reason. He minted some real Hall of Famers, like “Character is destiny” and “You can’t step in the same river twice,” but he was also responsible for this one: “Death is all things we see awake. All we see asleep is sleep.” Will sleep on it. Read More »


  1. Now, I believe, a Puma store.
  2. I also miss the redoubtable Scotty, who seemed to have read everything.
  3. I’m sorry, I don’t count Diesel; they are largely decorative.
  4. I even found myself, on an early morning in London the other day when Simpson’s of Piccadilly (now part of the Waterstone’s chain) was closed, ogling items in their window and searching for them on my iPad. Simpson’s lost a sale simply by being closed.
  5. I can remember from my days working at a bookshop that much of the business of staying in business consists of hiring a staff that can actually locate the books people are looking for; losing the sale of a book that’s in stock is a sort of tragedy for a bookstore. But no human being can beat a search algorithm.
  6. Congratulations and the very best of luck, Richard!