Yes, I am a Dreamer



A young mum asked me if I thought that books would become obsolete. But her son, about 10 years old, answered her before I could:

‘No, I think that most of the books will just go back to the library and go back on the right shelves.’

Lucas collects books in strict format and is anxious to add all of the volumes in a set to his own library as quickly as possible. Today he is feeling brilliant because he found two volumes of Boy and Beast at the back of a shelf after I told him that I thought that I didn’t have any. He said:

‘I didn’t look until the very last minute at the back of the shelf, it is incredible, and I found these and also volume three and four of Zac Powers and it is the Mega Missions. I really wish that all the Star Wars stuff would get with the Beast Quest books and have the same stories. I know how it would happen, with Darth Vader and that. The stories would be so cool and then they could still just have the Star Wars books if they wanted to. But sometimes they should let the Star Wars people out and let them go into other books. At school the teacher says to write my own ideas and have my own ideas but that IS my idea. So at home I let my Star Wars books be next to Beast Quest and also next to Sea Quest.’

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight……………..”  Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

Photography by Pawel Kadysz

A Table Sale of Visions


This morning, Robert came in and was disappointed that none of his books had arrived. But he assured me he would be ok, that what was really bothering him was the beer he drank last night.

He told me that once when he was down at Glenelg for fish and chips he drank three coopers and had a vision. This is in the old days when you drank  good beer and always had a vision. He could have a table sale of all the visions he had had. But the alcohol of today is befouled. It used to be made properly, aged, brewed in the bottle and made with love. These days even the wine is made and bottled by the thousands and the vintners don’t even know who is drinking it. It’s a sad thing. He said that people that love books also love and appreciate the quality of things and of experiences.

I told him how I myself read Indulgence: Around the World in search of Chocolate by Paul Richardson and polished off three blocks of Whitman’s finest while I read it. I said that I don’t believe that books will become obsolete any more than food will.  He said that this is up to the government.

I asked Ken if he read his science books at the table and he said how annoying it was when you have to put down the book and the gin and tonic and answer the damn door. But he agreed that eating and reading and drinking and reading are completely complimentary in the best way.

Will said that he is not allowed to eat when he reads books in case he spoils his books. But at school they are allowed to.

Prue asked me to find her a copy of Ken Follett’s World Without End as soon as possible so she could replace the library copy that she ruined with a wine stain.

Brian bought another Lee Child which he reads in his ute across the road with a vanilla slice and a chocolate milk. He does this every second day.

Helen asked me did I realise how impossible it was to get rid of chocolate cake stains from the pages of children’s books.

John came in from the bakery and asked me not to tell his wife that he had been there. I am lucky to be near a large, busy bakery as so many of my visitors come straight from there to here. He had come in for some Don Camillo books, funniest things ever written and good to enjoy with a beer. Although he was not allowed to drink beer.

Photography by Rubee Hood

Sensitive to Air



Istiaque Emon

My first customer today asked me for a book about water colour painting. The book is for her 9 year old daughter who loves to paint, and who is a very unusual girl because she is sensitive to air. I said to her: ‘But what does it mean?’ And she replied that she didn’t know, it was something the daughter said herself. But she thought it had something to do with reading, and that was ok by her as she was not one for interfering.

When Tricia picked up her Complete Works of Chaucer she said that nobody reads Chaucer these days, but she does because she attended a convent school. And this made her sensitive to the best works. She told me that she made a policy of never reading a book that had won a literary prize as these books are all pretentious. Her sister, a librarian of 45 years, and who always appears awkward in photos has never given up trying to tell her what to read. And when that same sister got asthma, back when it was fashionable to have asthma, she could have told HER what to read too, to help with the asthma, but she didn’t. But Chaucer, he was worth reading, no matter what your situation in life was.

Joe told me that even though he was in his fifties he could still remember the first Little Golden Book he had ever read, and was trying to find and buy it again. It had a birthday cake on the last page.

Eric said that his nose is so sensitive that he has been known to follow a woman for a mile for the sake of her perfume. I suggested that maybe he should not do this, and he answered that it is ok as it is for the sake of her perfume.

Robert told me that The Book of Raziel, although only 76 pages long, is so profound that it makes him cry out loud.

I remembered that last year, a young reader called Lori had copied out a poem for me about a beetle from a book she had, and brought it here for me to keep. She said that it was good that anybody would even write about a beetle….

It makes me wonder today if  Rieu wrote about the beetle because he is sensitive to beetles or to life in general? Did Lori like it because she is sensitive to beetles or to writing in general? It is a truly beautiful piece of writing.

Rendez-vous With a Beetle

Meet me in Usk

And drone to me

Of what a beetle’s

Eye can see

When lamps are lit

And the bats flit

In Usk

At dusk.


And tell me if

A beetle’s nose

Detects the perfume

Of the rose

As gardens fade

And stars invade

The dusk

In Usk.

by E V Rieu


Today I have been asked for Storm Boy, The Readers Digest  Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers, The Farseer Trilogy Book 2, The Wearing of a Sacramental Tapestry, Independence Day, anything by Anna Funder, On Cats by Doris Lessing and anything about Judi Dench Who is Divine. Then later: Death in Venice, The Glastonbury Map, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Lord of the Rings, preferably in one volume. Has there ever been written a history of rainwater tanks? Is Clive James still alive? Who wrote Dracula? Has the Green and Gold Cookery book been rewritten using proper measurements?

I answer everything as best I can. I try to be sensitive to air. I try to think that the stars invade the dusk for everyone in a different way.

Are we sensitive to air and therefore must read? Or does reading cause us to become confounded and therefore sensitive to air? Does this mean that we are complex or confused?

Leon said that I may need to have a root canal because sensitivity to air originates on the gum line. I said that this was not what I meant. He suggested that perhaps vampires might be the answer as he, himself,  is aware of the possibilities of the True Blood series actually coming true. I said that this is closer to what I actually meant.

Meryl and Norman came from Goolwa, hoping for a copy of The 39 Steps by John Buchan because it was Norman’s favourite film, even though the 1978 version had Richard Hannay hanging from one of the hands of the Big Ben clock in London, trying to slow time down…

Meryl, herself didn’t like the book because she had to study it in Leaving and this has made her unable to stomach the it anymore. But she loved her Enid Blytons so much that she painted the covers with lacquer when she was a girl, hoping they would last longer. But then, when she had to leave her marital home in a great hurry, she lost them all. And, to add to that, she does not get to see her grandsons very often.

A lady told me that we are all getting tired of the frantic pace of life and that is why books and bookshops will always be of value, because in them, time can rest. As she said this to me, she looked tired.

If we feel sensitive to something we can explore the heart of it, deeply and intensely and achingly through reading. Like a beetle. Or cats. Or pain.

And it is true that is does cause time to slow down. And I might understand now a little of what it means to be sensitive to air. Because I am reading The Three Sisters by May Sinclair and every page turn is agony like cold clear air on an aching tooth.


Photography by Istiaque Emon


Edmond Alan Poe and The Uses of Sadness


‘Do you have a book about this thick that has poetry? I had it as a child and then it went west. It had the good poetry in it, Edmond Alan Poe and ones like that. It was exactly this thick. Good for when I was a sad thing and I often was with a mother like mine. The thing about this poetry is that it was enjoyable, not like the poetry of today……does nothing to cheer a person up does it!’

This customer, Sally, who was my first customer for the day made a noise of contempt, twice for emphasis.

‘The book went west, there are some people you should just stay away from, like people who take your poetry books. Let me know if you find it.’

I promised that I would.

Bruce came in to pick up his copy of The Advancement of Learning by Francis Bacon and he turned around in a circle to describe to me the number of good books there were to be read. He said that his mother died of cancer when he was 11 years old and there were no counsellors in those days to help a person out. But he had always had books. Then he looked apologetic and said that he had better go.

A young woman showed me her list of Patricia Cornwell books, written in the Correct Reading Order.

‘Here, here is my list. I have every book here in order, oh my God I am a sad case but here are the Patricia Cornwells. I am up to Body of Evidence and I need to read them in order so please please get them in, I just love them, I’m such a sad case, so hopeless. She went sadly out, looking very happy and drummed on the window and pointed to her list again to happily show me how sad she was.

David told me that the greatest art comes from the deepest wounds. That the artists don’t write about it, they write from it. They may not touch on a catastrophe at all, may not even mention the cost of suffering. But the finished piece, the novel, the writing you hold, that IS the price of their suffering and they pay it. We get to read the book and at the end find ourselves re gathered, that is if we allow it. Not better or fixed, but regathered, able to keep going. But it isn’t easy. To read Virginia Woolf means to also stare back into our own eye, undistracted. And nobody wants to do that.

I thanked him for his opinion and he advised me to read Helen Garner.

How Green was my Valley, Ethan Frome, The Great Gatsby, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept; all of these are in the library of bravehearts.

A small child told her mother she did not want to read Charlotte’s Web because it was too sad. And Margaret, when I asked her, said that sadness is necessary, like milk and eggs.



Posture, Mid-Foot, Cadence and Lean

Jonathan Pendleton

Grant Robison, an elite runner and coach whose Good Form Running program was adopted by New Balance to educate runners on how to move into the company’s Minimus line, says that while teaching runners to land on the midfoot was an emphasis a few years ago, he now considers it the least important of the four points he teaches: Posture, Mid-Foot, Cadence and Lean.

Pauline, a secondary English teacher from Canberra came into the shop one day during her holidays. She said that teaching students to read with their whole body is possible, although difficult. ‘Most students read with their brain. And although that is fine for maths it is simply inadequate when reading a novel.’ She said that her views were not consistent with popular curriculum but she persisted anyway, knowing for herself the experience of reading from the feet up to the roof. She described how some of her students, when she finished reading aloud The Fault in Our Stars, were simply unable to move. She has a poster in her classroom that says: Exercise is only as beneficial as the posture in which you perform it ( Matthias Alexander ).

Even though reading is an activity of stillness, many readers refer to their reading as commotions in which they physically participate. And which can leave them exhausted.

This afternoon a young mother confessed glumly to me that she is concerned about her daughter’s reading choices. She has read all the Harry Potters and is now considering the Twilights. She said she would feel good knowing that her daughter was reading the best things, the classics instead of racing through Twilight.  I asked her if she, herself, read the classics and she said she didn’t. She said they are too plodding.

An old lady told me that her husband gave her $50 for Christmas. ‘I’m spending it all on Westerns. My husband says to me did you see that? And he’s talking about some rubbish on television he’s looking at but I don’t see a thing. I’m so happy with my books. I’m galloping through the whole lot of them. And he’s watching those silly cooking shows with everyone screaming blue murder!

Tansy told me that she read The House of Spirits practically in one go. That it was like   a train that she could not get off. It just steamed on until the end and she had to run with it. That’s how good it was.

Margaret dropped off a film for me about Charles Dickens and said that the only thing she is thinking about at the moment is bushfires. She said she can only read on tip toe.

John came to check the Dick Francis shelf as he was ready to dive into a new one, and also to show me his new walking stick. He said that there is nothing about Christmas that is not annoying.

Yvonne came in for Arthur Upfield again: “I’m going to cancel the NBN. Ridiculous tying up my phone line like they do. I’m perfectly good with the news of an evening and a glass of wine and a lean back with Arthur Upfield who never failed to calm her nerves.

By the time Fran got to the end of Anna Karenina, she was wrung out and Rebecca said that when Dumbledore died, she also died. Leah said that The Lampo Circus was so good you could eat it and that the colours of these books, which were mint and cream and blue and cream and raspberries and cream were why she bought the books.

Mick told me that most of the new age writers were intellectual featherweights and that he preferred a few rounds with the heavy stuff such as Freud, Kant and Jung.

I recorded all of this as excellent information.

( photography by Jonathan Pendleton)

What I Thought I Knew

Jeremy Bishop

A Canadian visitor to my shop asked me for a copy of Storm Boy which he had looked for everywhere in Goolwa and could not find. He told me that Storm Boy is regarded in Canada as one of the most significant books from South Australia. He also showed me a piece of text on his phone that was written by Colin Thiele. He said that what he thought he knew about the sea was no longer; that after he read this he had to go back down to the ocean and think about the sea all over again.

“The green sea swept into the shallows and seethed there like slaking quicklime. It surged over the rocks, tossing up spangles of water like a juggler and catching them deftly again behind. It raced knee-deep through the clefts and crevices, twisted and tortured in a thousand ways, till it swept nuzzling and sucking into the holes at the base of the cliff. The whole reef was a shambles of foam, but it was bright in the sun, bright as a shattered mirror, exuberant and leaping with light.”

 Colin Thiele

(Photography by Jeremy Bishop)