And his wife said: we lie in bed from six am to eight am every morning and read with cups of tea and we’ve been doing that for forty years.
I gazed at this old couple who are so happy with the volumes they have just chosen and I thanked them for coming into my shop.
And later, a whole week later, I rang them to talk about a book they wanted and when I rang, Thelma was reading Manx Mouse in the garden and she said: oh, my dear, my dear, my dear I am reading Manx Mouse out in the garden and there are no words for it. And then she said: we should also talk about Oscar Wilde next time we come in. John is making a nuisance of himself in the shed; let me call out to him that you are here on the phone. I ought to also turn off the hose. Just wait a minute my dear…
I am thinking of Oscar Wilde all day.
I am reading The New York Stories of Edith Wharton and I am absorbed too completely in Mrs Manstey’s View. When Mrs Manstey lingers at her window to watch a windy sunset die in bat coloured dusk I remembered that I had once seen that sunset through a glass window and I had licked the glass and it was hot.
A customer looks at my book and says she could never get on with Edith Wharton.
I feel that I cannot get by without Edith Wharton. The cover is beautiful; it is iced green with pink and presents itself as to be eaten.
I am asked for Catcher in the Rye and I feel like furiously saying bother The Catcher! What now about Edith Wharton…
A young woman asks for Thus Spake Zarathustra and I am wondering why such a young person has chosen this.
Peggy sends me a message with her new address and that the James Patterson she bought from me was rubbish. I suggested Edith Wharton and I am limp with love for Edith Wharton but Peggy says: God, no.
Rita came in for an Australian Stamp Catalogue and she describes for me the difficulties of her experiences with greyhound racing.
Joe comes back with his copy of The Nullarbor Kid and tells me that his life of trucking the outback is entirely within this book. He said: my lady used to come with me in the truck sometimes, so on the CB radio – when the truckers knew she was with me, they cleaned up their language you see… for ten years she travelled with me… it was the best ten years of my life. She said that the men of the outback treated her much better than men in suits back in that wretched bank. But it’s different now I guess…I should like to read any more books this guy has written. Please look some more of them out for me.
I am asked for the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft.
There is an argument in the front room over Game of Thrones.
A small child hits her brother over the head with his Horton Hatches the Egg and he is devastated. The mother tells me that she is exhausted. She has purchased Cleopatra and Helen of Troy by Margaret George, each of these is a weighty 900 pages and she leaves the shop hugging her two weeping children and she tells me about her reading afternoon and she is ecstatic. I understand her ecstasy and that sometimes there are not words for it. I remember when I was looking at Wide Sargasso Sea, looking at the pages and the cover and David came in and said: Oh My God is that Wide Sargasso Sea and I said yes and he said: Oh My God! And there were no more words for it.
There are all the details there, in these books, the greatest books, whichever they are. Details of the smallest things, the everyday things, so many and so profound and complicated that there is no dealing with them, not even with regular, careful breathing.
Paper sculpture by Malena Valcarcel