After a busy Saturday, it’s gone quiet again

But that’s ok, it’s usually the way. Days like today give you time to sit and think and notice what’s actually going on. So far this morning has yielded the following:

Four old men, clearly friends, lean against a ute drinking water out of a water pig, one of those old foam ones. There is one cup, so they share it. One man wants to go to the bakery but is advised against it. They have biscuits in the cab.

When I look up again they are sharing scotch fingers around, shaking crumbs out of their sandals and saying that the town has come a long way. One man is staring into my front window.

Inside, a lady says that her library is alphabetical-  it’s A to Z, but her friends says hers is purely aesthetic. ‘Matthew Reilly is put here and Harry Potter is there. It’s about how they look.’

Her friends says, ‘That makes sense. I get that.’

‘I can’t have sets that don’t match, and I can’t have stuff without dustcovers.’

‘Mine are lined up in order of publication.’

‘You’d think that in a bookstore where we find everything alphabetically, we’d have that in our homes too.’

‘Nope.’

‘I know.’

Then they go into the back room. The old men have walked past my door toward the bakery. Guess they changed their minds.

Someone has parked in front of them and I can  hear a lady yelling, ‘You keep locking it. What are you doing? Stop locking it. Dickhead.’

And inside the shop:

‘Girl, this room will eat you alive.’

‘Is that Celtic or something?’

‘I think so. I saw it on my Tik Tok feed.’

‘The bee keeper community is strange.’

‘Maybe.’

Brenda rings for Wild at Heart for her granddaughter and I say, ‘Good to hear from you again’, and she says, ‘Oh I’ve been in hospital, not complaining though.’

A man pumps hand sanitizer all over his shoes but doesn’t notice.

Outside the old men are back with hot coffees, which they drink leaning against the ute and talk about the truck across the road – at least I think they are because they keep pointing at it and nodding.

Inside the shop, the ladies are still collecting:

‘Oh my God.’

‘Calm your farm.’

‘Look at this. The first one I got from a discount bin. It was a hard read.’

‘Russell Brand and I don’t see eye to eye.’

‘He’s a bit of a douche canoe, but I love him.’

Lorna rings me for James Herriot, second hand, please.

The ladies are leaving. The old men are climbing back into the ute.  The shouting lady has returned from the bakery with paper bags and cans of coke.  Walks quietly because she has no shoes on. The truck is gone. There’s a four wheel drive here now and the owner is walking around and around it, tapping the bumper bar with his keys.

Sarah goes past but doesn’t come in.

The man tapping the bumper bar is now talking on the phone right next to my door and saying, ‘Someone’s been at this.’ He listens for a long time to whoever’s on the phone and then hangs up without saying anything. Then he gets back in the car and drives away.

Bibliomania

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“There’s no spectacle that is as terrifying as the sight of a guest in your house whom you catch staring at your books. It is not the judgmental possibility that is frightening. The fact that one’s sense of discrimination is exposed by his books. Indeed, most people would much prefer to see the guest first scan, then peer and turn away in boredom or disapproval. Alas, too often the eyes, dark with calculation, shift from title to title as from floozie to floozie in an overheated dance hall. Nor is that the worst.

It is when those eyes stop moving that the heart, too, stops. The guest’s body twitches; his hand floats up to where his eyes have led it. There is nothing to be done. You freeze. He smiles. You hear the question even as it forms:  Would you mind if I borrowed this book?”

Roger Rosenblatt, Bibliomania

Hal Porter

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The thing about Hal Porter is that I do not know why I am reading him. I found him by accident and the volume was dull, without a dust cover, neither new nor old. The title, The Tilted Cross was quiet. It did not look at me.
This book came to me within a library that was gifted to me, an enormous and unexpected gift that will take me the rest of my years to discover. The reasons that libraries are put together and the decades it takes to put them together makes each one its own province with an understood currency and an exceptional climate. This library is a monarchy and this book, by Hal Porter, is now my favourite so far. The library is now blended with mine, and after the usual difficulties of integration and acceptance of minorities, is now settled mostly comfortably. It sheds more light, merged light, so different light and it is very beautiful inside it.
Now I am reading this book, The Tilted Cross, which is bizarre and difficult to read and difficult to understand and set in Hobart Town, Tasmania, convict history and ugly.
But what it is about is just the skin. The characters and the places are all just skin. What happens is just skin. What it holds is really it. It is not entertaining and not reassuring, and it is not clear. What it is, I am not clear on either, but it is important to me. I am unable to analyse the book, I am only able to read it.
It is something like a glass jug, held and turned and regarded in every light, upside down and inside out, bottom and handle, lip, glass, base and translucence. Regarded empty and fallen or full and erect. What is it and why.

Photography by Andrey Grinkevich

The Little Girl Who Chose Babar

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I like listening to young people talk about what they read. I like the way they stand and gesture and run out of words. This is soooo good. Oh my God, this is so good. This is soooo good.

They rarely analyse, criticise or predict. The book is relevant or not, there is not much in between. The book becomes a fragment of them or it doesn’t.

One girl said that when she reads, everything becomes real. She looked at me intensely, anxiously, daring me to disagree. I did not disagree. She said: Oh my God, I loved Twilight. Her friend who is tall and gracious and grave, said: I have read Twilight, too, and I think that – but her  friend interrupted, I believe that when I read it, it is all true. She described her two shelves at home, packed with books, spines, titles, only the best ones. She has read them all.

Younger readers have to describe even more intense and glittering experiences with even less words. Geronimo Stilton is soooo crazy, Across the Nightingale Floor is like… mad. The Eregons are – but this boy had no words.  He then offered, politely, a suitable description for me: it was quite good, very good.

But his own words of his own experience, he did not share with me.

One girl, nine years old, described a book, a reader in her classroom that she wanted so much she might die. It was a mystery that you solve as you read it, it is soooo good.  it is soooo fun,  it is even on the internet!

A small child, about four years old chose Babar. Her father thought it not the right one. She turned away, clutching the book, frowning, furious, she wore pink gumboots and a red dress, she had scarf that trailed on the floor, she was organised for the cold.  And she would not let her father take the book, though he worked hard to retrieve it, to choose a better one. But there was no better one; there was only Babar and there were no words to explain.