We’ll leave a light on for them


Libraries are, innately, extremely dangerous places. Stop by on that first errand of the morning to drop off a book, and by 5 p.m. the auto repair shop has closed, your children have been interviewed by social workers, and you are hip deep in past issues of “Wooden Boat,” or spellbound by some orchid researcher up the Amazon in 1932. The annual Giant Book Fair at the Malibu Library is precisely such a hazard.

Topanga resident Sarah House-Peters succumbed to the occasion this weekend with a tally of 30-odd titles, ranging omnivorously from a study on blood pressure to a couple of novels by the reliable John Fowles. “I hope my boyfriend doesn’t find out,” she lamented. But, at under a dollar a pound, she needn’t have worried. Hard-bound books cost a dollar; paperbacks, records, cassettes and videos were 50 cents each.

The event is a benefit organized by a volunteer group known as the Friends of Malibu Library. Most of the books are donated by the community, but sorting them is labor intensive. Volunteer Libbie St. Henri said there is a cadre of a dozen people who devote a lot of time, and 25 to 50 more are involved with this huge annual undertaking.

Autographed books were auctioned Saturday morning, including autobiographies by Steve Allen and George Burns. An autographed copy of Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” was the highlight of the auction. “Leigh McCloskey was a wonderful, clever and humorous auctioneer,” said Susan Jennings, Book Fair committee member. This was the first auction in years, and, “Thanks to the generosity of our supporters,” she said, they plan to have another auction next year.

To the eventual gratification of his future dinner guests, Malibuite Larry Marshall acquired a hefty stack of cookbooks. “A good cookbook should read like a novel,” he said. “I only use them as a guide. My favorite [author] is James Beard.” One of the titles he did not acquire was a New Age nutrition treatise, appetizingly entitled “Glutamic Acid.”

Leftover children’s books are donated to a camp for needy children, said Jennings. But what to do with such classics as “Your Erroneous Zones,” “Leningrad in Three Days,” or “Are You Confused?” In the same vein, there should be a separate category in the Dewey Decimal System for oxymoronic titles, such as “The New Male,” “The Intimacy Struggle,” and “Smart Women, Foolish Choices.”

In the fiction category, it was easy to find dependable authors such as Clavell, Sayers and Le Carre. There was also an abundance of scarlet-and-cobalt colored book jackets with missiles in mid-launch or exploding U-boats on them. Their titles sort of ran together, but the word “Ninja” seemed to recur. On the distaff side, title of the year had to be “Rose of Rapture.”

After four hours of this hazardous assignment, The Malibu Times reporter staggered squinting into the late afternoon sunshine lugging a dozen master works, including a recent Crichton, an early “Calvin and Hobbes” and the prize, a collection of S. J. Perelman. He has accomplished nothing since. And he keeps wondering what on earth prevailed upon Geraldo Rivera to publish memoirs entitled, “Exposing Myself.”