Dan Weinstein, owner of The Iliad Bookstore sits surrounded by books.
Photo by Augustus Britton

The Iliad Bookshop’s Everlasting Odyssey

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In an era awash in technology, this Valley bookstore and its spunky cats remain a nexus for literary community.

“I started the store in ‘87 and I cut my hair real short to get my lease and never cut it again after that,” confesses the long-locked L.A. native and sole proprietor of The Iliad Bookshop, Dan Weinstein.

Located at an inconspicuous intersection between Burbank and North Hollywood, The Iliad Bookshop is a cozy mix of librarial reverence and old lore magic. The walls are lined with literary memorabilia, most notably art by R. Crumb and posters of Bukowski alongside author obituaries from days past. An aged photograph showing Weinstein drowning in a pile of hardcovers hangs on the wall.

“After the earthquake in ’94, books were literally a foot to two feet deep in the aisles, I took advantage of the photo op,” Weinstein says.

Weinstein is the scion of a Valley-based used book business dynasty. His uncles had establishments around town and were leaders of the antiquarian scene with Tarzana’s Heritage Book Shop and Hollywood Book City.

The Iliad Bookshop was christened with its Homeric name because its original location was next door to the now-defunct Odyssey Video. (Remember? They lampooned the Paris Hilton sex tape with a sprawling advertisement across the wall in hot yellow all caps font).

“I thought it made sense, you know, The Iliad and The Odyssey,” Weinstein says, as he sits in a back room of his bookstore, deep in a fluffy brown chair, the walls around him overflowing with titles. Nearby is a rare book aisle — one of Weinstein’s favorite parts of the place — equipped with a five-foot-tall silver bank safe gushing with expensive tomes.

Weinstein’s 10 employees are awesome. There are no better poetic words to describe them. One could say they all look like fictional characters. Grateful Dead fans, Philip K. Dick spies or Stendhal savants eating Chinese food at the counter while the shop’s spunky cats Zeus and Apollo — more nods to Greek mythology — climb over their shoulders.

Weinstein is the scion of a Valley-based used book business dynasty. His uncles had establishments around town and were leaders of the antiquarian scene with Tarzana’s Heritage Book Shop and Hollywood Book City.

“If you wanted to buy a Gutenberg Bible or a Shakespeare Folio you’d talk to them, they were the go-to guys,” he says. “Their father was a junk dealer and when he passed away they realized they could buy a book for a nickel all day long and sell them for 50 cents.”

Aside from nepotistic influence, he cut his teeth selling books at a thrift store, “under the condition that I got first crack at ‘em.’” That is until his collection reached over a 1,000 and he decided he might do something about it.

“In the mid-’90s, we started selling online and realized it could be a great tool and it could change things, even before Amazon, but finding a book you didn’t know you needed — you don’t get that on Amazon. And [here] you can read through it and sit down on a couch and read a few pages and see if you like it.”

Dan Weinstein

In 2006 Weinstein relocated the shop away from its aforesaid neighbor, Odyssey Video. It is now staked in a larger space, upsizing almost 3,000-square feet to a capacious 6,000-foot corner building, which is likely to expand in the near future.

“They have everything, and everything is $3,” a customer whispers behind a wall of sci-fi paperbacks. The statement isn’t exactly true, but it feels like it’s true. After all, can you go into Barnes & Noble nowadays and find anything for less than $10?

“Good old classic literature we do well with,” Weinstein says when asked what sells best. “[We have] approximately 125,000 books [in our inventory], the number changes daily, we take in a couple thousand a day.”

The Amazon question is raised; that Internet vortex of things for sale. Where are bookstores heading? Weinstein remains hopeful, realistic and resilient.

“In the mid-’90s, we started selling online and realized it could be a great tool and it could change things, even before Amazon,” Weinstein says. “But, finding a book you didn’t know you needed — you don’t get that on Amazon. And [here] you can read through it and sit down on a couch and read a few pages and see if you like it.”

It’s this kind of experience that The Iliad Bookshop’s loyal customers return to.

“I think L.A. is a lot more literate than people give it credit for,” Weinstein says.

The brick-and-mortar bookstore is a welcome jaunt, even from the outside with its elfin façade. English artist Paul Dilworth painted a mural on the building which depicts a beatific vision occupied by great poets, songsters and the like. Inside is a consistent air of the unique where a one-eyed cat might trail your reading pursuits. In a time when everything is awash in indulgent technology, The Iliad remains generous like a great friend: open early, open late and always there to nourish the soul with a story.

VISIT

The Iliad Bookshop

5400 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601

iliadbooks.com

Los Angeleno