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Novel Shutters; Remembering the Beginning

August 11, 2009. Venice--On the www.laobserved site, writer TJ Sullivan reports that longtime hangout The Novel Cafe is shuttering. Sullivan says that a letter posted on the front window states that the landlord is not renewing the coffee shop/bookstore's lease.

Most people aren't ready for endings but Richard Karno, The Novel's founder who no longer owns the digs, wasn't ready for it to begin.

On that day, about 20 years ago, with press and alleged VIPs invited for The Novel's opening night, stacks of books had yet to be placed on their shelves. The place was a mess. Not even close.

So in a scene straight out of 30-Something (a popular TV show at the time) a group of Karno's friends stepped in for the afternoon to ready the small storefront. At that time, The Novel was half the size it is now. But it was a big deal--the first of a tight college crew, many of whom went to UCSB, to launch a business. There was some hardcore dusting going on that day, really mundane prep, but it was an adventure.

In those first few weeks, Karno's friends would hang out, ad nauseam, so it would look like the place was almost busy. John Henson, a roommate of Karno's, and I spent plenty of time there. We thought it was so cool that our friend owned it. And from time to time I would pick up a brilliant or beautiful edition of a secondhand book for a steal, like Joan Didion's Democracy.

Karno subsequently sold the cafe and went on to be Venice's coffee impresario care of his GroundWorks chain, with multiple outlets in Venice. Then he reached all the way downtown. But he still fronts the coffee for such events as the Venice Garden Tour.

I haven't spent time at The Novel in years, but hearing the news today I just had to go back to that opening night. I still laugh that there was a defacto guest list, I can’t remember who ran the door, but I’m pretty sure that it was Doug Kaback who still lives local who transferred The Novel's beautiful logo to the front glass.

Ciao, Novel.--Isabel T

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