The structure of each day in the bookshop has become replete.
Each day forms nicely, bulges out and toward the afternoon, trims itself and tries to return to normal by closing time.
Each day the flow of information is generous.
Each morning seems to be about Henry James.
At closing time, I am anxious to get home to keep going with Henry James. I am slow. Leon told me that I am slow with books, it is true. But I am justified – The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James is a thicket of alarm bells. I have to go slowly.
Young families wash in on a tide of enthusiasm and spare time because the school holidays have begun and it is summer. And there is a new Star Wars film. When they leave the door is covered in fingerprints and there will be an empty juice bottle amongst the Geronimo Stiltons.
‘Where’s that book The Cross Sections of the Man of War? Is it still here? Last week it was.’
‘Nanna is getting us books and we can pick our own. This one is about the war but it is book 2 so do you have books 1 and 3. I’m getting it anyway.’
‘Do you have William Gaddis? I’ve been looking for The Recognitions all my life. It’s up there with Gravity’s Rainbow’ and books like that.’
In any spare minute I have another turn with Henry James. Not many people have ever asked for his books. I shall ask myself for them for now on.
Karl came in with his book list and told me that his eyes gave way earlier in the year which was disappointing as he has always been one for the written word. But now he is fine and ready to roll.
John complained that every time he went to the bakery his doctor would go pass the window and see what he was eating and then give him a rocket because of his irresponsible attitude – his cholesterol is way too high. ‘Small town bullshit that’s what it is. You can’t even take a piss without somebody telling everyone at Woolworths about it. I’m enjoying that Dick Francis though, the only one of those crime mugs that can actually write.’
I am lucky to receive a consistent commentary on the weather. The weather is a topic with a satisfying variety of expressions available to share it around.
‘How’s this heat? Keeping you busy?’
‘Cool in here.’
‘This heat is ridiculous!’
‘Good weather for reading, that’s what I say.’
‘Foul weather. And here I am out in it.’
‘Damn strange weather!’
‘Damn fine weather!’
‘This weather takes the cake.’
‘Don’t know how Christmas will go with weather like this.’
‘Heat’s bad but nothing like in the sixties.’
A lady told me that Gould’s Book of Fish has got her flabbergasted.
All day I am offered suggestions of the best things to read.
I freefall amongst the suggestions.
I think that behind each thing that is told to me, there is something of greater importance, not able to be said.
For me, to work here, serving out books, is like something I read – a single line in a novel and I often wonder what it means when a line in a novel will not leave you alone. The way one single sentence can be heard as though it were tapped out with one of those little mallets used by geologists, the kind of mallet that disturbs, reveals and then preserves…
…..to sit on the stool and time would be forgotten. No hunger or thirst or desire for a friend or lover’s company. Just an awareness of someone in the distance hammering a floor, banging through ancient concrete with a mallet as if to reach the truth.
Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatjie