Wednesday Feb. 16 Twice Sold Tales celebrated its 35 years in business.
Twice Sold Tales – Seattle’s only cat-bookstore – owner Jamie Lutton is an encyclopedia. “No good book-scout can do it without being a reader, you have to be able to carry the cathedral in your head,”Lutton said – the cathedral houses everything from Charles Dickens to Josephine Baker. Just enough to run a business like hers.
Before Lutton owned Twice Sold Tales in its full-form, she started out in her youth, trading books at yard sales. Then she made her way selling on college campuses, “you can’t do it in UW – they’ll chase you out like rabid dogs. It upsets the hippies running it, sorta like the revolution in Iran. You can’t have any more revolutionaries.” So, she’d drive all the way to Western Washington University and, “sleep on the floor of a chainsmoker.”
Eventually, in the late ‘80’s, she tried a stall at the Broadway Market, “and ya’know, I thought retail wasn’t so bad. In fact, it got to where I’d pay this guy to run the stall while I’d go buy books like a madman.” She’s a cinematic storyteller – describing how she’d down coffee, haunt weekend sales, how they’d fly off the back of her truck on the way to the next sale.
Her love of books comes from her time as, “a juvenile delinquent… I was not popular, I was the black’s sheep black sheep. She took refuge in books, comparing science fiction to heroin. She details her childhood to me – two studious parents, one a scientist and the other a librarian, damp with alcohol and frustration. “My mother thought she was Catherine Hepburn, but she was in a Tennessee Williams play – you should read Tennessee Williams if you want to know black human existence.” With the same tempo as she describes her political critiques, she describes her fear of being like her mother, of hearing her mother’s voice in her own.
Lutton is self-aware, when asked what she’s learned about people after thirty-five years in business, “it’s really cool finding books for people… If I can step back, be objective, that five minute interaction with people, I get- I make people so happy. People are like me, they like the books, they like the cats. I’m like the black spider in the web, going ‘you like the web? I worked real hard on this web, but you don’t have to like me.’”
For the future, she wants Ben Koch, manager of Twice Sold Tales to take over the store in her retirement. “I found out kidney-transplant patients don’t live past their mid-70’s, and I’m 62. I might want to retire… do other things, shuffle around the house in my PJs, and like, look at the birds. My hobby is birdwatching.” She anticipates working on a novel exploring the democrats’ failure to embrace nuclear power.
Lutton has been here for a minute – she’ll cop to that, but she’s made her time here worth it, building her own “cathedral” as she says. Lutton is complex, a living archetype of duality, of resilience and its cost, teetering on the impossible. It’s rare to come across someone who is so dedicated to living in accordance with their will.
Victoria Winter is trying to prove that nothing human is alien to us. On paper, she is a second year student at Seattle Central College, potentially majoring in anthropology and philosophy. In reality, she is fascinated by using the mediums of photojournalism and writing to explore subcultures - the fringes, the limelight, and everything in between. She is in love with humans. Her only firm beliefs are that everything should be explored and most things are easier at night.