West with the night

“We swung over the hills and over the town and back again, and I saw how a man can be master of a craft, and how a craft can be master of an element. I saw the alchemy of perspective reduce my world, and all my other life, to grains in a cup. I learned to watch, to put my trust in other hands than mine. And I learned to wander. I learned what every dreaming child needs to know — that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.”

Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Illustration by Quint Buchholz

People can’t read anymore


A young man came in to buy the one of the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs – he told me about George of the Jungle and sang me the theme song. He also bought Sherlock Holmes, the entire works, a huge volume. He was still singing when he left.

Richard, who is 93 asked for The Lives of Beryl Markham or anything about Beryl Markham. He said he is obsessed with her, especially about her sexual exploits but most books don’t deal with those. I said I would try to find something that did deal with those, but first of all I must finish The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Richard said he did not read anything that had become a film so he was not going to read that one.

I did not finish The Joy Luck Club because a couple came in looking for Evelyn Waugh. And also for Jessica Mitford, Rudyard Kipling and Monica Dickens. He bought A Life Backstage by Moffatt Oxenbould even though he did not agree with Oxenbald about many things. He also bought a book about Verdi and a copy of Ben Hur. His wife said that he is ridiculous about books.

When they left they called back: bless you.

Ursula showed me A Valediction Forbidding Mourning written in 1633 by John Donne. She said it is the most beautiful thing ever written. I read it and it is. She said her father was in the war and that I had a nice spot here next door to the bakery and the raspberry delights.

At the end of the afternoon a man came in and told me that most people can’t read. He said that he couldn’t be bothered with it either as he didn’t need to fill himself up with things from books anymore. And he didn’t envy me this job. He told me about a time he went to Prague in the winter and met a woman he did not like.

I said there are simply millions of readers but he said he was not interested to hear it. Instead he told me about his miserable time as a boy in a Catholic School, which was why he could not be bothered with religion anymore either. Then he said he was not going to buy a book and goodbye. I saw him look through the window of the bakery but he did not go in. I don’t know where he went then because I am now looking for books that detail the sexual exploits of Beryl Markham for Richard who is 93 and loves reading.