Do not let Downtown Los Angeles fool you with its urine soaked facade. Behind the disenchanted faces who struggle to stay alive and the trash littered sidewalks are hidden gems that only a local would easily recognize. Old, tired buildings hide beautifully restored ballrooms behind their opaque windows. Faded signs divert attention away from the lively, soul filled open markets beyond them. But most important (to any literary addict) is a discreet building that hugs the corner of Spring Street.
Shamefully, I admit that this was my first trek to visit this book shop. But once the threshold had been crossed, it was clear that L.A. had definitely created a treasure. Worn books were stacked into tunnels, portals, and as supports to old couches and checkout stands. A faux vault cradled vintage bindings and a staircase lead to a labyrinth of fantasy, science fiction, and other curiosities.
Previously loved books were priced for possession by those of all budgets and only fate could lead you to titles you were meant to covet.
Apparently, Samhain and my approaching road trip north took charge of my haul.
My Haul of Fate:
Druids by Morgan Llywelyn (quoted synopsis): “So spoke the young Celt Ainvar, centuries before the enchanted age of Arthur and Merlin. An orphan taken in by the chief druid of the Carnutes in Gaul, Ainvar’s talents would lead him to master the druid mysteries of thought, healing, magic, and the sway of battle, and they would make him a soul friend–the dazzling Prince Vercingetorix. The two youths were as different as fire and ice.
Yet Ainvar’s destiny lay with Vercingetorix, the sunbright warrior-king. Together they traveled through bitter winters and starlit summers in Gaul, rallying the splintered Celtic tribes against the encroaching might of Julius Caesar and the soulless legions of Rome….” (1991)
Thoughts: I initially plucked this off the shelf because I love anything to do with Druids, but also because I find the white robe to be humorously modern. Upon a closer look, this book received outstanding reviews for the author’s ability to create an authentic idea of how ancient Gaul might have been. Having been immersed in Celtic culture research myself, I am curious to find if anything I have learned will also apply here.
Daughter of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt (quoted synopsis): “In Daughters of the Witching Hill, Mary Sharratt brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching novel of strong women, family, and betrayal inspired by the 1612 Pendle witch trials.
Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow, lives with her children in a crumbling old tower in Pendle Forest. Drawing on Catholic ritual, medicinal herbs, and guidance from her spirit-friend Tibb, Bess heals the sick and fore-tells the future in exchange for food and drink. As she ages, she instructs her best friend, Anne, and her granddaughter, Alizon, in her craft. Though Anne ultimately turns to dark magic, Alizon intends to use her craft for good. But when a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon, a local magistrate tricks her into accusing her family and neighbors of witchcraft. Suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights as friends and loved ones turn on one another and the novel draws to an inevitable conclusion.” (2010)
Thoughts: I grabbed it for the title (I am a sucker for the sound of words…like witching). It had me at “strong women.” I have also had general curiosity about the different perspectives of witches. While interested, I have a feeling this one may sit for a while before I actually read it.
The Sky and the Forest by C.S. Forester (quoted synopsis): “This is the dramatic story of a man who was also a god. It tells how that man exchanged heavenly omnipotence for earthly power, and how the exchange was accompanied by the first faint intimations of human love– a story as old as Adam, and as new as sky travel.
In the beginning Loa was all-powerful in his tiny native village, brother of the forest, his friendly brother, and of the sky, the unfriendly one. Into this idyllic scene came the Arab raiders, burning, killing and enslaving the village under the hated whip and yoke. Terror and hardship forced Loa to realize he was only a man after all, but the change was made bearable by his wife, Musini, who continued to worship him as a god in public and perhaps let him think she did in private, while actually discovering a new tenderness for him as a man. Furthermore, Loa was not too slow to learn that where a god may rule a village, empires are man-made.” (1948)
Thoughts: This was my pick from the vault of vintage books. Which I usually pick for the cover or title. I will probably get drawn into this book for its philosophies and 1948 perspective of man.
Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (quoting Allen Ginsberg 10.10.91 NYC): “Each book by Jack Kerouac is unique, a telepathic diamond. With prose set in the middle of his mind, he reveals consciousness itself in all its syntactic elaboration, detailing the luminous emptiness of his own paranoiac confusion. Such rich natural writing is nonpareil in later half of XX century, a synthesis of Proust, Celine, Thomas Wolfe, Hemingway, Genet, Thelonious Mnk, Basho, Charlier Parker, and Kerouac’s own atheletic sacred insight.
Big Sur‘s a humane, precise account of the extraordinary ravages of alcohol delirium tremens on Kerouac, a superior novelist who had strength to compltete his poetic narrative, a task few scribes so afflicted have accomplished–other crack up. Here we meet San Francisco’s poets and recognize hero Dean Moriarty ten years after On the Road. Jack Kerouac was a ‘writer,’ as his great peer W.S. Burroughs says, and here at the peak of his suffering humorous genius he wrote through his misery to end with ‘Sea,’ a brilliant poem appended, on the hallucinatory Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur.”
Thoughts: It’s Kerouac and it’s Big Sur. Both a rite of passage. If I need to explain further, the cover also quoted it as “his grittiest book,” and well….I love the word grittiest.