In the shop, I get told about things in bits and pieces. There is never enough time for customers to explain the whole story – which in their minds is one complete coherent and catastrophic realization- but it only gets to me in fragments.
‘The Russians are a cruel people. I prefer the Druids. King Arthur, for example. And Lancelot was a complete arsehole. You can’t tell me he didn’t have something strange going on with the Danes.’
Readers are always enthusiastic and visionary.
‘Easter is for throwing things out. That’s how I was raised. Read Winnie the Pooh, and you’ll understand.’
‘I had to confront the manager about the hot cross buns.’
And they are mysterious.
‘I’ve read all of these. Brilliant books. I might get that one anyway. And you’ll see something across the road in a minute. At least you will if you’ve read book 4 of these.’
And they are confident.
‘Did you know that the writer of Tarzan made it all up?’
A reader brought a copy of The End of Certainty by Paul Kelly over to me. He said, ‘There’s a lot we can learn from the Americans. But as for Blair, just leave him out of it.’ He bought three other biographies. He said, ‘Luckily, there’s no end to it.’
Children try harder. They watch your eyes when they talk and gauge your enthusiasm and your comprehension accurately. They tell the story properly, loyal to the facts and inventing nothing. In ‘Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll’, Kelsey lives in Pakistan and needs a friend. Her and her Nanna get her a doll. Called Amy Jo. They have a hard adventure. But they are all right in the end.’
They explain succinctly why they want a particular book.
‘It’s because I want it.’
Illustration by Inga Moore