Chicken Corner was a bookstore tourist on Friday, when I went to Boyle Heights with two friends to investigate a shop recently opened by my friend David Kipen. Libros Schmibros opened July 12, the day the public library was forced to cut the public's hours. Kipen said he could have opened the shop earlier but waited for July 12 in order to make a statement. In the spirit of volunteerism and of private entities taking over what public agencies are taking away, Libros Schmibros is both a resale shop and a lending library -- in the tradition of bookshops loaning books as well as selling them. Years ago, I used to borrow books from a bookstore on the upper east side in Manhattan; I think the store's name was Gotham (not to be confused with the legendary place on 46th), but a quick look online a few minutes ago showed no such store near 86th Street anymore. If it went out of business, I'll hope it wasn't because they loaned books.
In any case, Kipen will lend you his -- and what a terrific selection of trade literature and American classics he has (as well as other genres)! I had been looking for books by Penelope Fitzgerald and found several on David's shelves. I have also had a yen for the Queen of Mean, Florence King, recently -- and didn't find any of her very funny essays, sadly.
Libros Schmibros is the next step in an unusually broad literary career. Before opening the shop, Kipen, who, of course, is a writer -- as well as translator and NPR books reviewer -- was head of literary programs for the National Endowment for the Arts, which then was headed by the poet Dana Gioia. Recently, Kipen wrote a new translation of Cervantes' The Dialogue of the Dogs (Melville House).
El Random Hero wrote a nice post about Libros Schmibros a couple of weeks ago on LAEastside.com.
Libros Schmibros is at 2000 East 1st Street, in close walking distance to the lovely Hollenbeck Park. It's also close to Al & Bea's burrito stand on 1st Street, which served the best burrito I have ever had -- though I will add the caveat that I was very hungry at the time.
Photo via El Random Hero at LAEastside.com.
*Full disclosure: David Kipen is married to LAObserved's Malibu observer, Veronique de Turenne.