We Own Nothing

Image from the Marlborough Gallery .jpg

One man has chosen Journal to the Hebrides by James Boswell, a Folio edition, slipcased and it is very nice. He is pleased with it and pulls out the book to show me that it is still unread. He says that he always liked Boswell. He has a book on Chinese art and one of the journals of Anais Nin. He stacks them up and says; I always find something. When he talks he is always looking at other books, just in case there is one that needs him. Then he laughs out loud and says, I should bloody just go but you know…. then he said: nothing belongs to us, does it, nothing really does. We just interact with it and then we move on and all this just stays here. We don’t even own anything. Then he went out into the outside bright and he was reading the Anais Nin paperback as he walked up the road.

Image from the Marlborough Gallery, New York

I’ve had lunch you dickhead!

roman-kraft

As I am unwrapping a parcel of books there are two workmen passing the window and they are hurrying and cold. One says: I will buy you lunch and the other answers him: I’ve had lunch you dickhead.

They are loud and an old lady turns to me and says “Well!”

Another older couple came in and stride grimly through each room and then tell me as they leave that the weather is ridiculous.

I am unwrapping some books and they are for me. They are my last two volumes of the Journals of Anais Nin and have arrived in the post today and I unwrap them and say to a customer that I ought to lock the door and just read now and they say it is hardly fair that I live here in paradise.

But Robert is approving. He is on the way to a funeral but stops here to complain about the bank. He does not appreciate having to wait in a queue because this robs him of reading time. I said that I understood.

A young man bought A History of Chinese Philosophy and said that it would see the cold weather out.

Vernon discussed Game of Thrones with me and said that I should not become attached to any of the characters, not even the direwolves. He said that all history is ugly and Game of Thrones at least portrays things as they really were, apart from the dragons.

Then he gave me a list of Bernard Cornwell books that he needed and went off to work. He said good luck with what happens next at Winterfell.

I look at the Anais Nin journals for a while and think about Anais Nin.

A child outside says: mum can we check in here for the ‘just shocking’ books that I still want to get. They continue slowly past in serious discussion. The child lists the titles he needs and he jumps in the air as he recites each one.

I am asked for Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving, The New Bandsaw Box Book, A Biography of Cleopatra by Margaret George, Heart of Darkness, The Brothers Karamazov, Catcher in the Rye, an autobiography of Jimmy Barnes and Vargic’s Miscellany Book of Maps.

A lady asked how much the peacock outside the window costs but I said it was mine and not for sale. She said she had one the like but her friend took it.

A customer returns to lend me her copy of The Magician of Karakosk.

I am looking through a Heath Anthology of American Literature, two volumes which also arrived for me today and they are heavy. And each of them is 3000 pages long and they are second hand, inexpensive and the contents pages list Alice Walker, Lucille Clifton and Elizabeth Bishop…and Flannery O’Connor and more and more that I have never seen.

Robert comes back and I show him the Anthologies of American Literature and he says: ‘wow’. I show him the contents and point out the African American writers, the American Indian writers and the women writers and I know that this will please him. And it does impress him because he wants to buy them both but I have to say that these are not for sale but he can borrow them when I am finished. He says how long will this be and I tell him 100 years and he is even more impressed.

Photography by Roman Kraft

 

With books, there is no end…

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A young reader, Ben, thanks me for his horse book. He says: thank you for that horse book. Do you think that you could now find a book about how to look after dogs and maybe put it out the back to save it for me or something? As they left his mother said: well that was a lucky find, I reckon.

I rang a lady to tell her that her books were here but her husband said that she is in hospital now and may never come back out.

Outside is full of tradesmen, laden with food and jogging back to waiting vehicles.

Robert has had the flu. He said he caught it in the art gallery and said that he cannot even taste his cigarettes and has not been able to read properly. He is outraged about catching the flu in an art gallery and said that this is typical Adelaide.

David said today that it is very difficult to stay focussed until a whole poem drops out. He said: I just cannot do it, but my mother could.

Outside now the street is empty. There is only a police car and they are in the bakery.

I finish Gould’s Book of Fish and Anaïs Nin (A Woman Speaks).

Two sisters are circling the table of children’s books, eyeing each other and the books on  display.

Karl tells me how important it is to have a chair in a bookshop for the customers. He buys Brother Fish because he knows personally about the Korean War and advises me to keep going, do keep going. Jenny brings a biography to the counter: Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking. Karl reads aloud from the back cover and she tells him to be quiet.

A family come in, a man with a young wife that the children call by her first name. He stands back hopeful, but she sits down and is exhausted. The children are pleased with the books, finding Geronimo Stilton and Zac Powers. She offers to buy them any books they would like but they put them back on the table, even the Geronimo Stilton Red Ruby.

I am asked for Saigon by Anthony Grey and any books by Tamora Pierce

I have found another book to read for myself and it is by an Australian writer called Elizabeth Jolley. It is called An Innocent Gentlemen. I can sense another ambush and I put the book back down for now.

A small boy asks if it is ok to come in if you are wearing soccer boots.

Last night I finished Anaïs Nin and today, the whole day, is about Anaïs Nin again. Once Margaret Atwood ambushed me this way and I could not get away for a long time and it was The Blind Assassin that did it.

A man stands outside the window and stares at a biography of Germaine Greer. He has been standing there for a long time. Another man tells me a long story about a library book that he lost in New Zealand. I decide to re read The Blind Assassin.

I am asked for Memoirs of a Geisha and advised to read it. I tell the customer that the day is alive with choices.

A man kneels with his small daughters amongst the Fairy Wishes books. He says: put them back properly remember. Don’t leave your beanie. The younger sister tells him that she wants every single book. He leans into the shelves to consider a safe response.

A lady says to someone outside, out of view: Stephen, this town has book shops. Later she came back to get a book she saw in the window. She said her friends are at the bakery and she lied to them about where she was going because they said she could not buy any more books. I said that I understood her predicament. She said that not everyone is interested in books.

She is gazing along the shelves, reaching for Sir Walter Scott and she says: with books there is no end.

 

 

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaïs Nin

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Dean picked up his Ghandi and talked about the Bhagavad Gita. He said that apparently it very much inspired Aldous Huxley who wrote among other things, Brave New World. Then he said cryptically that this is only the beginning. He also said he is worried about his electricity supply.

I said conversationally to a young council worker that it was hailing here not half an hour ago and the sky was black. He said: there’s no way!!!!! Then he said cheerfully that he doesn’t read much, he just wanted to get into the warm.

Anaïs Nin…..

Red Rackham’s Treasure (Tintin) has fallen on top of American Sniper so nobody can see the sniper anymore. I decide to leave it this way.

Jeanne picks up Sisters of Sinai and asks for me to look out for Pomegranate Soup for her and that reading gets her through the winter.

I am asked for Reading the Oxford English Dictionary: One Man, One Year, 21730 Pages by Amon Shea. The customer says: imagine doing that! Writing Home by Alan Bennett, a huge and heavy volume sits on the counter and looks impassively on, dubious of  anyone reading the entire dictionary.

A customer I have never met suddenly buys Writing Home by Alan Bennett and there is a gap.

Anaïs Nin, A Woman Speaks

 

Outside a lady tells indicates the General Cosgrove book in the window and tells her husband that she has already read that but…..he tries to edge her toward their car.

Amelia messages me that soon she is going to spend an obscene amount of money on Zola. Especially on Nana, the only book she had no copy of at all.

Margaret brings me tangerine cake that she made herself. Soon the entire shop smells of tangerine.

David bought Byzantine Art – he said that he coveted this book. And that life is difficult.

A visitor says that he lives in Yorkshire, England but now he wants to live in Echunga.

A man rushed in and asked me what an Encyclopaedia of South Australia was worth. I said that I did not know. He said he did not want me to give him $5 for it when it was worth, say $20. I thanked him for his concern.

A lady suddenly said as she stood there with a copy of Heidi: I do enjoy reading your blog. I am shocked and do not know what to say.

A man wandered around and told me that he had Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now on tape. He said: I can relax and listen to things. I can come out once a week and this is my day out. I am also learning to use a dictionary. I have never read a book right though. What are these, this old Pauper’s library here? Who is this Midsummer Night Dream? Who is this Thomas Moore? Who are the Irish Melodies? I told him about some of the books and he said: sweet!

A young woman said she just had the best half hour of her day. She displayed her choices in front of me, all paperback penguins, Hesse, Sagan, Gunter Grass, Bellow, Marquez, all old and worn with delivery.

The market across the road is busy, the street is busy. Someone has put a flower on my windowsill. People outside read aloud the titles in the window as they pass by. A young woman holds up books to her infant daughter through the glass. But the child, outside with her father, is distracted by the balloons above her. Her mother taps crossly on the glass so that the young man quickly turns the child to look at Angelina Ballerina. But the child is disinterested. The father looks through the glass, worried.

The day is Anaïs Nin; inside everything is Anaïs Nin because she said: create your own creation and be stubborn with it.

“I would like to have your sureness…”

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Margaret told yesterday me that in her reading group anyone can choose the books. And these are the books she wants: Bel Canto, Gould’s Book of Fish, Tulip Fever, Birds Without Wings, The Commandant (Text Classic version by Jessica Anderson) and Still Alice (the one about Alzheimer’s) and also Mrs Jordan’s Profession by Claire Tomelin. And that should do for now!! She said that often the members of the reading group are not even reading the same book, hahaha.

I do not often see anyone as happy as Margaret is when she lists off the books she needs. And her husband looks on with approval and carries all the books out for her. Sometimes he finds one for himself, usually something about the Second World War.

Margaret sends books to her children who live overseas and observes that they never seem to get the point of the stories she sends them. But she is delighted. Her husband is delighted too.

“I would like to have your sureness. I am waiting for love, the core of a woman’s life.”

Jenny came over the road to lend to me her copy of A Parrot in a Pepper Tree, the funniest thing she has read in ages. She said that Writers’ Week was Divine and she bought ‘that thing on Keating, the one by Kerry O’Brien and I’m telling you it is an absolute tome ! It’s a winter read, can’t wait till the winter, just the thing and I’ll lend you when I’m done! But before that I’m doing the Gillard. ‘

John told me that he is wanting to collect volumes of myths and legends, tales of all countries because he cannot complete his work without them. He said he knows what he must read, his work tells him, his heart tells him, it is his passion. He also told me that his tobacco has been poisoned and it is the tobacco companies that are doing it.

He asked for a copy of Marion Woodman’s The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter. This is a Jungian study of the repressed feminine and also vital for his studies.

“I would like to have your sureness. I am waiting for love, the core of a woman’s life.” Don’t wait for it,” I said. “Create a world, your world.”

A new customer told me that the books that had the biggest impact on his life were Jean Auel’s The Earth’s Children series. He felt that the author had devoted her entire life to the researching and writing of the series and that this was an incredible life achievement.  He said that he had a friend in France that once held up some road works there because he thought he recognised some ancient symbols etched into a cliff face that they were excavating. This friend became hysterical and demanded that all work immediately stop and it did! He insisted that these might be runes of some kind, but, well, anyway they weren’t runes, they were marks made by the bucket on the road excavator. But, the thing is that I totally get this, I imagine all the time that I’m seeing evidence of the Cro-Magnon humans, all thanks to Jean Auel. I always wonder what sort of person she is and how good it would feel to have written all these books…’

 “I would like to have your sureness. I am waiting for love, the core of a woman’s life.” Don’t wait for it,” I said. “Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone.”

To find some fragment of something that makes you so happy that you cannot stop talking about it, is a great thing. Any small fragment of something that is dear to you (for whatever reason) gives buoyancy. But the visitors here at my book shop, who tell me their stories of what they love, do not seem to realise how their happiness quietly radiates.

“I would like to have your sureness. I am waiting for love, the core of a woman’s life.” Don’t wait for it,” I said. “Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. And then love will come to you, then it comes to you.”

The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” Anaïs Nin

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Outside the shop it is grey and raining and warm and everyone who comes in tells me that the weather is doing strange things lately.

Inside the shop I can only think about Anais Nin because I am very slowly reading her journals. She is dead now. And her writing, as someone said to me, is brilliant and brave.

She wrote what she really thought. This is a terrifying concept. Because, as she said:

“When one is pretending, the entire body revolts.”

There is thinking enough for weeks and weeks in this small sentence.

Sculpture by Ken Martin

A Swiss Watch will Keep Going Even if you Bury it in Cement

Niklas Rhose

Every day at the shop I am constantly informed of the most startling things. Like the stamina of a Swiss watch.

And I like the way that the variety of things, information, events and books that interest people has no limits.

Once I was told a long story about gunpowder and how hilarious it can be. And once about the history of the tulip. Also I have been informed of the origin of cobblestones and about the problems of racism in Tintin in the Congo which caused it to be removed from libraries all over the English speaking world.

I like hearing about the great writers and the Outrages they Committed. It is good to hear that everybody has Terrible Trouble with Ulysses and that Middlemarch is a Long Plod. And that Tom Cruise was a disappointment as Jack Reacher…

David said yesterday that he feels as though bookshops deliberately ambush him into buying something good when he clearly doesn’t want to. He said this crossly. He bought Love, Again by Doris Lessing because Doris Lessing is ‘too strong a woman for him to say no to.’ He had also told me not to live in Mt Barker because it is full of diverse elements. However, I should keep on with Anais Nin because she is brilliant and brave. I said that I intended to read all of her journals although it will take me a while, I am a slow reader and he replied that the diaries were written over decades and so I had plenty of time.

I was asked to find more South Australian poets and more Ernest Hemmingway.

Peggy told me that she didn’t read the Narnia books until she was old.

And Brian wanted a copy of the Truckie’s History, a book to read again, at a family funeral this time when all the womenfolk would be at each other like a pack of bitches but he could just sit back and enjoy a read. (If I could possibly get him a copy please.)

A young reader of historical novels told me that collectors of moths no longer have to kill them because now we have the internet.

A little girl (7) told me that her book Too Late Bendigo was for her to read to her mum.

A visitor with homemade anti-Islamic pamphlets asked me if he could leave them for me to distribute from my shop. I said no.

And finally, at the end of the day, I was asked to track down a book about tug boats that is apparently ‘as hard as shit to get.’ Two of the tugs were called Batman and Robin and these were his favourites as a boy. He lent his out and it was never returned so now he was on the hunt for another copy. He shared everything he knew about steamships and his own stories made him laugh.

This conversation left me 15 minutes for The Royal Whore: Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine by Allen Andrews, which I  only began this morning.

Photography by Niklas Rhose