The Boys at the Window

Maljavin - Sister Alexandra

The boys at the window, on a cold afternoon, very recently, were headed to Woolworths to buy things to eat. They stopped at the window of the shop and stared together at Hilary Clinton’s book, Living History.

One of the boys said: her!

The other boy answered: I know!

Then they straightened back up and continued on their way. As they left, one boy said: my mum used to always read a lot, books like that. When I got home from school she was always reading. When I was little she would always yell out like: is that you?

His friend said: like it could have been an assassin or something…

And the first boy answered: yeah!

 

Painting ‘Alexandra’ by Filipp Malyavin

The Motorbikes

maxresdefault

They are everywhere. Passing, parking, loitering, turning and gathering. The ones outside my bookshop are very beautiful, they are lined up in perfect formation and the riders stand by in black leathers and look over everyone else’s ride. The motorcycles stand in the sun, taking the exam, fearing nothing.
But one rider is looking down at his front tyre. His friend says, a fucking flat! Just what you need.
How’d that happen? They all slowly gather, a leather council, to discuss events. More motorbikes idle past, they are very loud, the riders outside my store stop speaking and watch the flow critically, they look for flaws, for power and for foolishness.
One rider approaches the corner, roaring, he shatters the morning heat, heedless of pedestrians and loiterers. Then he pauses there, enjoying the noise until the driver behind helps him around with his horn. The standing riders, outside my shop, glance at each other and rock back and forth, still listening as that young rider drives off into Australia day.
They are all nodding, unimpressed.
Superhero! 

So he reckons!

How about some food…

 

 

Sheila

lisa-zoe-54245.jpg

Sheila came into the shop yesterday and wanted a series of books by Iris Johansen which she said were awfully good. Forensic crime and awfully good. She asked me what I was reading and I told her about Hal Porter and Olga Masters but she hadn’t heard of them, as I had not heard of Iris Johansen. She had to spell the name out for me. She had not heard of the books I was reading but she was enthusiastic about my enthusiasm. She was delighted with me, she leaned over her walking frame to listen closely, generously and she said: Well, who’d have thought it! They build up in you don’t they!

Then she left, slowly, easing her walking frame through the door, taking ages to get home and complaining about nothing.

Photography by Lisa Zoe

Thea Stilton, I just love you so much…

20171009_122326

It is the school holidays again and outside the shop this morning there is a car laden with camping gear and with two small bikes attached to the back. There are children waiting there, one is lying across the back seat with his feet out of the car door, the parents are at the bakery.

They have been instructed to stay put. But the smaller sibling, a little girl, has her face pressed to the window of the shop and is saying Thea Stilton, Thea Stilton, Thea, Thea Thea, I just love you so much… in a sing song voice…until her brother tells her to leave it and get back into the car.

So she does, and she gently closes the door on his foot as she passes to the other side. He  twists around and looks at her in amazement, he might yell out but then suddenly the parents are back and there are sausage rolls and juice and buns and the father going back because he forgot the tomato sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gin and Tonic

20170917_101730

A man came into the shop and told me that he is reading Henry Miller as an experiment. That he was documenting his own reading as a history of his own reading and so far it was amazingly erratic.

His little girl said: ohhhhh is Henry here?

A young man said: I am going to read the Harvard Classics. The whole lot, all 51 books, I saw them in a list and they are all very important: He was pushing a pram with an infant daughter beaming from inside,  watching as he found a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress and Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

He was hoping to get His Autobiography by Abraham Lincoln as this is the first one in the list but was content with the others instead. He angled the pram out expertly, his books stacked on the top along with a copy of Possum Magic, the first volume of Baby’s Harvard Classics.

An old lady came in with her friend and saw me drinking from a water bottle. One of them asked me if it was a gin and tonic.

But I had to tell her that it was just water.

She said that the river in The Wind and the Willows was just water too…

It is September but visitors are already thinking about Christmas, they argue over books, intending to gift them to that family member or this family member. One boy said: dad, don’t get it, that book is shit. He won’t want it.

A lady bought two Asterix books, one for each grandchild. She was laughing and laughing, she said that Asterix is just so funny.

Another old lady tells me that motorcycles should not be allowed in Strathalbyn anymore.

The steam train comes in, the bakery is busy, the street is warm, three young boys pass the window with skate boards on their heads. There is an altercation between small dogs tied up outside and the owner comes in and tells me that he wished he had not brought the bloody dogs down the street, but his wife makes him. And have I got a copy of Spartan Gold by Clive Cussler?

 

 

 

 

 

The House of Brie

garlic_bread_740_486_s_c1.jpg

It is September and it is warming up. Passers-by are not so huddled and they do not walk by so fast. They stand in the sun and look through the shop window.

A couple came into the shop and bought Alice in Wonderland for their daughter and a Star Wars novel for their son.

They said: Well, this is great, this book being blue, also with summer coming and everything.

Outside there are young people leaning against the wall, the warm wall.

Robert visited and said he wouldn’t look around because he knows what will happen to him: he will be ambushed by some book on the Ancients and at the moment he just needs to pay his AGL bill, even though they don’t deserve to be paid. He also said that the Thames and Hudson Art and Imagination Series is the best thing he’s ever seen.

I am asked for dozens of obscure titles, the sun is warming up everybody’s old reading lists.

A little boy sent his grandmother to the shop to with a pirate book reading list. There were hand drawn illustrations on the list to make sure she got the right books. She said: he always makes me these lists.

I take longer going down the street because I want to stay in the sun, so does everybody else.

An older couple spend ages looking at a copy of Pinocchio.

I am asked if I think Harry Potter is a suitable series for a young person.

A man buys three very worn out cartoon books and tells me they are brilliant but his wife says they are stupid.

Down the street I see Alan, buying wine and beer. Alan is Swiss and has the fabulous Swiss accent. He is gloomy because he grows his own vegetables but his wife said they are all shit and just bought a lettuce from Woolies. He looked at the brie I had bought and said I must leave it out of the fridge for at least ten days before eating it, as is proper for brie.

I said: maybe.

He said: then you pack it into a good house of  bread, cuddle it up with roasted garlic, a square of butter over the top and bake it. It is the proper way.

I said I was going home to make it.

 

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale

 

Screenshot_2017-09-01-20-57-15.pngI have finished reading it.

I read it whenever I could find a minute, not stopping even once. I read it at the shop and was asked what I am reading. Visitors said: oh yes, that book. Or they said: what’s it about? Or they have heard of it, know of it, mean to read it, want to get a copy, know someone who has read it, have seen the television series, don’t want to read it, they do not like books about oppressive and brutal regimes etc, etc.

And it is a brutal regime, a totalitarian society called Gilead, set a part of the old United States and one that treats women as property. No nice things happen. I was advised by one customer that everyone should read this. It was first published in 1985 and I read that Margaret Atwood is as deeply concerned with oppressive regimes as she is with the widely held attitude that they won’t happen here. And though it was written a while ago and is about a time far into the future, it is about each one of us, about the small and normal things we scratch around doing to live our lives and would keep on doing if we were to enter a new life that we could not survive.   I was asked if it had a happy ending but I think that Margaret Atwood is too sublime a writer to need the happy endings. Life is rarely about these. It does seem so very important to read these books.

I have no copies of this book in my shop and I cannot part with mine.

Moby Dick

 

aaron-burden-236415.jpgA young boy came in to the shop with his father and was anxious for a copy of Moby Dick, which was his favourite book. I only had a volume that contained Moby Dick and Omoo and Typee and Israel Potter. I was doubtful of this 1700 page volume but the child reassured me that this was ok, he had already read all of these and they were as good as anything. He said that Moby Dick was a good book, as good as Star Wars or anything like that.

His father stood patiently by.

The child then said that Moby Dick is just more exciting than the other versions, it is just more exciting….than…the other versions. And it is as good as Uluru. He did not explain this last statement but instead went to another shelf to get a Star Wars Encyclopaedia which he was getting for his teacher.

I’m getting this for my teacher. He’s a really really really really big fan of Star Wars. He’ll really get into this.

He stood there, confident, pushing his glasses back to the correct position, squared up and facing the world, his enormous world full of enormous books, glowing and supreme, while his father stood patiently by.

Photography by Aaron Burden

The Door

shttefan-280960.jpg

Visiting my bookshop means a complimentary struggle with the door. It is not old or new or beautiful. Everybody finds the door difficult except for Dick who is 94 and said that he’s gotten through worse doors in his life.

The door opens sulkily and on a wheezing breath and then stops abruptly, its hinges allowing it no further, it will bruise a pram, thud a shoulder and remove confidence. Then it won’t shut at all. My door will creak and creak back to the last half inch gap and rest there for any amount of time and then abruptly shatter the peace of the shop with an impossible smash. People will jump in horror and stare at me and at the door, holding their books, their hearts and their lives in place with one hand over their chests. Each shopper thinks it is their fault. Sometimes the shock causes them to put chosen books back and I think that I should remove that door and just not have one.

My door can also hold itself poised on a breath, and hold this bitchy balance for two hours until the shop is empty and then crash land into the door frame like a truck hitting the building. One young man said he had a door like that at home, and that they do this because the closers are fucked. All the old heavy doors do it. Also the hinges could be fucked. He examined the hinges and said that they were not fucked.

My door will not let a pram out. Mothers, shopping, toddlers and prams are mixed together in a hot doorway jam, trying to exit. They always apologise as if it is their fault. It isn’t ever their fault. They will crush their prams to cardboard rather than be unkind about my door. The door stands there rectangular and exultant.

My door likes to lose its stupid doorknob in every tenth shopper’s horrified hand. The golden bulb throws out the screw quietly and slides off just as the door opens one inch. Then it can smash spectacularly back into the doorframe and ruin a day. People always think they have broken my door and they apologise over and over again while the door sniggers a unique wood and glass hysteria.

But small children can reach the lower handle. They love the heavy, solid move of it. They love the cold glass and often lick the toffee, clear panels. They can open and shut the door over and over, bang and bang and bang without going in or out. If it crashes unexpectedly, they love it.

Parents, making important reading choices call out to their children: don’t make trouble.

I feel that the door withdraws in consternation and then horror. I urge the children silently to keep going. Lick the glass, open the door, peer out and shout out hellooooooo to an empty street. Try to shut the door on its nasty whistle but it won’t. So lean in panting, chest to wood, kick it, push and slam until it gives way with a sullen and furious small click, defeated.

Photography by Shttefan

I think that these books are picking me out.

florian-bernhardt-165017

Now it is winter and the wind is cold. But there is no rain. Visitors to the shop remind me sternly that there has been no rain.

But there are leaves, simply everywhere and gathering in noisy droves in my doorway. Visitors open the door and say: sorry about the leaves. Yvonne said: blast these leaves, the nuisances.

There is a small girl and her glasses are faulty, one arm is loose and they slide and swing and she must adjust them every few seconds. But she is not minding this – she is telling me about Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism and these books are ABOUT MOLLY and she is an orphan who can hypnotise people. She is magic.

This little girl breathes and remembers with her eyes shut and her glasses slipping and falling, that Molly Moon defeats a bank robber. She says that she picked the Molly books once in the library but when she tells me her story she says by accident that the Molly Moon books picked her out when she was at the library and just went past the shelves.

Photography by Florian Bernhardt