“Ay,” said Alfred. “I thought I was getting a bit oldish— but I’m not. It’s the things you’ve got as gets worn out, it’s not you yourself.” D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow
In any spare moments I get here, I am reading The Rainbow.
D H Lawrence, on the last reading, which was when I was in high school was heavy, gloomy and ludicrous. But now…..he is not. I think that he is brave; he did not write for accolades, he is intimate; he writes with microscopic and tender detail and he is also solitary in his regard for life.
A small boy brought a book to his father and held it up. He said: ‘ …dad, I bet you did NOT see this….’ And he was tremendously delighted because he was right; his dad had not seen that book.
Outside the shop, an old lady sharply rebuked her husband for trying to cross the road with the books they had just purchased. She said she did not want the books messed up if he got hit by a car.
Robert told me this morning that he is being got at by somebody. I have always thought that Robert’s unconventional interests and perceptions have somehow kept him young. His interests and perceptions have not yet worn out, will possibly never wear out.
A young woman spent a long time amongst the self-help books today and she seemed weary. I know that these books wear out very quickly. I felt sad for her and would have liked to offer Carson McCullers or Anais Nin or D H Lawrence but that would be presumptuous.
John came in while he was waiting for his bus and told me about the biography of Abraham Lincoln that he is still reading. He told me that Abraham Lincoln’s father said he would never amount to anything; he didn’t do any physical work on the farm. ‘Oh the details in my book are incredible but imagine that – Abraham Lincoln’s own father told him that he would amount to NOTHING.’
Then he told me about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich……..’Ivan S won the Nobel Prize for this book. And he was not allowed to have the prize, the utter bastards. That’s the kind of book that gets to me, that’s the exact stuff that gets to me, with oomph, not this other unessential stuff. Also I like For the Term of his Natural Life…’
‘And what about that Boris Johnson – that’s a funny name for an Englishman, do you think his mum was Russian or something? He was Winston Churchill’s grandson.’
John told me before he left that They were going to take his heavy vehicle license away from him; it’s all insurance or something, the utter bastards. The rigmarole…. you see I don’t have a computer and now I want to get away from it all and, so, wait for it: I’m riding my bike to Murray Bridge and catching the train to Melbourne. Then I’ll ride to the ferry and go to Devonport and register myself with the police there and ride my bike again for six weeks around Tasmania. I hope it’s cold. I hope I don’t get eaten by a Tasmanian tiger or something like that that doesn’t exist.
John is 72 and is not wearing out although he feels that the government is. But I cannot say exactly why he is so enduring. He, Robert and many other customers I meet here have a profound interest in the details of something that seems to transcend their daily lives. And although they recognise their passions in literature and reading, it is in each day of their ordinary lives that they loom up, large and colourful and not wearing out.
“In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Photography by Christine Battaglia