Robert

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Robert reads ancient histories, unconventional science and philosophy and he loves conjecture, conflict and conspiracy. And he is writing his own book.

He follows national politics carefully and furiously and finds little to admire in our politicians. However, he is very respectful of Robert Graves, Sax Rohmer and Ainslie Roberts and has studied closely the writing of Sir John George Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon) Carl Jung and Marion Woodman. His reading list is a thousand years long.

He is fierce about government iniquities and he collects bookmarks. He is currently outraged about the situation with our power supply in South Australia and believes that no matter what happens, it is always, always and always the small local Joe that pays the cost of everything.

Every day for Robert is significant and profound – this is through his reading which he believes is revealing corruption and fraud on a global level and also through local news such as the birth of my grandsons; news which Robert believes is the most important of anything at all.

He may never finish his book but this does not bother him as for him it is the work that is important, the reading and the research and the fitting together of patterns and configurations, plots, intrigues and overarching beauty of world history.

He often says that he knows of people who do not read at all and he wonders how they do it.

 

 

 

I think that the only way to go on is to see if you can…

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Mrs Elman said that her hippeastrums are being frosted each morning and that she needed to give the trees a damn drink whether she wanted to or not and there was no point in avoiding it. She also said that the Chinese are a cunning race after what she saw on television last night.

She has come in to the shop to fetch some more reading – thrillers are her choice for the winter. She is admiring the sun through the window, noting its warmth after the cold that iced her hippeastrums this morning. She remembers that a friend of hers is standing guarantor for a family real estate purchase, she tells me that this is not a thing that SHE would do as it’s the right way to end up with nothing. She advised her own daughters of a better way.

“ …told my girls to share up and square up what’s mine after I’m gone and if there’s nothing left you can take the begging bowl around to have me buried.”

Outside the sun is gone and it is chilly again. She stands still just thinking peaceably.

She loves to read Jo Nesbo and David Baldacci, she and her husband used to read them together. She is tall, she stands with folded hands and a strong umbrella and she looks out of the door at the tangle in the street: cyclists, walkers, a stamping horse float, cold cloud….

I am reading Night and Day by Virginia Woolf and she looks at the cover. But she is not interested in Virginia Woolf… one of those silly, clever people, wasn’t she…

She suddenly says: young people want everything at once don’t they…I only ever had lino…no carpets of course…and you never saw us looking for leather. Nothing was ever easy… I think that the only way to go on is to see if you can.

And then she left.

Photography by Pavan Trikutam

 

The lady who found a set of books she had been chasing for 23 years..

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The lady, who had never been in before, just came in to have a small look. But then she found a set of books she had been after for 10 years. She called to her teenage daughter to look at these books, these Louise Cooper books, that she has finally found after 15 years. Her daughter did not look up at them.

She then rang somebody to say she has just found a series of books that she has been looking for – for  exactly 23 years. She lay on the floor in front of the science fiction and read all the titles aloud on the lower shelves. She said to me: mind you I have read this entire shelf. She then told me that she can read at an impressive 1000 words a minute. Her daughter continues to be unimpressed.

She said: mum get up. Her mum said: there’s a good Hobbit here, but her daughter did not reply.

It is raining and nobody much is coming in. Passers-by move slowly, unused to the rain and angry with their umbrellas. One man said to his wife that he’d told her so many times to get a new one and she said: keep moving Frank, the car’s there.

But I am reading Four Frightened People by E. Arnot Robertson, it is a Virago Classic which makes it very good by default and so I am not looking out closely at the rain and the people today. Robert came in excited for his Bhagavad Gita which is coming from India, but it was not here. He was not upset though, as it means he can spend his money on cigarettes today instead.

Glenda bought The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes; she said she is hoping that this history might include women in it.

Imogen, who is 13, is going to read everything by Chesterton as she loves the Father Brown stories. Bradley came in with his Christmas voucher to buy all of the Skulduggery books; they must be in the same size.

Ricky rang to find a copy of Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Gareth Stedman Jones but I told her it was not being published until May. She said: well that’ll teach me then, won’t it! Outside it is warm and dark and still raining and the galahs are noisy and Ricky says: I can hear those birds over there!

When Harry picked up his art book he says: God, the galahs are ruinous.

 

 

Noah Linden Hood: The last days of waiting.

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05/03/17

Today we are going to the river in Strathalbyn for your baby shower. I have bought you a swaddling cloth and a brush from Argus House and also two books so we can begin the reading as soon as possible. It is warm and cloudy and I am at the shop waiting for the last customers to leave so I can bring your gift down to the river. The Aunties are making cheese platters. Your baby cousin, Max, will be reclining at ease, either full of milk or asking for more as these are his two most passionate interests. We are all wondering when you might be born.

28/03/17

Today your young father dropped in to our house in Kanmantoo and took his boots off inside and left there a pile of sand on the carpet. One day you will do that in their house and I will laugh and laugh.

06/04/17

Soon you will be born. Yesterday I came out of the door of my bookshop and there was your mother standing on the kerb and assessing the traffic. There was too much traffic for her to cross safely with you as cargo. So she went further down the street.

15/04/17

And now you are born, last night when we were all unaware and caught off guard and everyone shrieking the news to each other. Another grandson. Another!

On the way to the hospital this morning the youngest Aunt drove much too fast. I said: don’t drive so fast but she was leaning forward urging us all toward the hospital. We did not want you to grow up and leave before we got there. She tells me that giving birth is hard work.

And it is autumn, warmer than warm, leaves swirling and still we are driving. Then we are there and gazing down. You are wrapped up, a dot swaddled, your father exhausted and your mother triumphant.

So now: two grandsons:

Max: awake since 2.30 am and crowing and singing through the rest of the night, emerging into the morning, gleeful and waving from his mother’s drooping shoulder. He can still fit easily on his grandfather’s one arm.

Noah: crumpled and tiny and yawning strongly. You would fit into your grandfather’s one hand.

The Slow and Careful Regard of Things

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A man bought Julia Gillard’s My Story because he had just met her the other day walking her dog at the Seacliff Caravan Park. He said: I just looked up and there she was. And so now, I am going to read her book…I bet it’ll be good.

He left here, with his book, tremendously pleased with his good fortune.

Peter told me that the difference between Kingston and Robe is that Kingston is sincere. I waited for a little more of the story but there wasn’t any. Then he told me that the Kingston Council didn’t even deserve a jetty.

Many details are shared with me in the shop, all of these things have a careful place in the lives of their owners.

I was told that reading Dickens is like pulling teeth, bloody hell. This man said that in one book, Dickens takes three pages just to describe a grey coat and that this is unnecessary. He spent a long time in the Science Fiction, only coming out to tell me that Isaac Asimov is not a good as people say.

One man browsed quietly for a long time and then came over to say that he once read only Famous Five and Biggles. He said that I would have read Pollyanna and What Katy Did. I said that I didn’t. He said ha ha ha ha.

A lady told me how The Other Grandma gave her a voucher at Christmas time for a clothes shop and it was a plus size clothes shop and she was hurt.

My friend has a friend who told me her grandchild is growing existentially.

(But I did not know what she meant). She came looking for some books to read on life in Ireland. She wanted to be a grandmother that did lots of things. Lots and lots of things. She seemed very anxious and determined to make sure she did enough things. I thought why is it that all women think they have never done enough things.

A small girl brought volumes two, three and four of The Series of Unfortunate Events to the counter. She spread them out so that I could see that there was no volume one. She and I both looked at the gap left by the missing volume.

In the letters of Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert urges Elizabeth to consider the slow and careful regard of her health and life….”For what cannot be achieved this way?”

Photography by Rubee Hood

As I walked away from my old life.

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As I walked away from my old life, I wondered if it were true. What my uncle had said. That I was changed and could never lift my head again. So I tried. I lifted it.

Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

An older lady came in with her husband. He was quiet and he sat looking through the children’s books for a long time. He sat on the cushions for the children and stared at the pages, often he was smiling. She told me that they both loved to read and he was from Latvia. And she described the books she was wanting to read now, they were mostly about the war. She told me that her husband had once been a member of the Latvian Army and had become a displaced person because of this. And that while he was a displaced person he was ordered to go to Siberia and then he would have been shot.

She continued on looking at some books for herself. Her husband, who was much older than her, was now reading Caribbean Tales: An Anthology.

Later, she came out of the back room to continue their story: but luckily he got to come to Australia. He got to come here to live instead of a prisoner of war camp because that’s what they were. But then his wife died. He came to Australia anyway and just ten years ago he married me you see and as I learn his story all I can think is that some people are luckily and some are not.

We went to Latvia two years ago and we went to the War Museum and they asked my husband for permission to record his story, they were passionate to record all of it because they said that much of their history is lost and my husband is a living resource, you see. What happened to him was not very nice. But he has never complained and he has never stopped reading.

I looked at her husband and he is bringing me a book: Australian Working Dog Stories and he says: I really like your Australian kelpies, they are wonderful, beautiful dogs.

Artwork by Jungho Lee

 

People can’t read anymore

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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.

Firestar, Tigerstar, Leafpool and Jayfeather

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A divine young reader said that she can read a book per night. She is reading all of the Cat Warriors. When she tells me about Cat Warriors she leans forward and her face is intense with joy and concentration…it seems as though it is a complicated task for her to come away from her thoughts about these cats, about ThunderClan, RiverClan, Windclan and ShadowClan. But suddenly she turns to her mother with some more news and says that she chipped her front tooth at school today. Her mother is telling me something but she stops in mid-sentence upon hearing this news.

The child continues helpfully: but I have already been told off by dad.

Her mum said: did he? Well ok then.

 

 

 

Rain

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Albert told me that he has been unwell. “I’ve been unwell, you know, confined to barracks! I catalogued all my books… well, two shelves anyway. Spanish Literature and the Mystics to the left and Latin and Early Church to the right. Travelogues on the bottom.” He bought another George Borrow; he said it already had a place on the shelf waiting. He loses his gloves in the shop and when he stacks his book to leave, he has picked up somebody else’s purchases. He says it is his own fault because all he can think about these days are the Spanish writers.

A couple were walking along the shelves, talking about the opera. She kept saying: yes, yes… but this one here…

It is very quiet. A bus load of visitors across the road are all looking at the sky, and then they one by one climb back onto the bus. Except for one lady who is arguing with the bus driver.

David told me about Clive James, Barbara Hanrahan, Alan Moorhead, Jerome K. Jerome, Jean Rhys and Patrick White and then he purchased another biography of Anais Nin that I wanted for myself. I look at him reprovingly and he says: well, it’s too late now.

And a couple buying mysteries tell me that the weather just will not brighten up.

It is raining. Still the lady across the road argues with the bus driver who is hunched against both her and the rain.

There are some young people kneeling in front of the self-help books. They have the Bhagavad Gita and Jonathon Livingston Seagull on the floor side by side and they are talking to each other about them in low voices. They have left their rucksacks by the door of the shop and another customer, a regular gentleman who only reads political biographies tells me that the bags people carry around these days are very odd. He is cheerful because he has found a copy of Alistair Cooke’s America and he thinks that now he will branch out. The young people are all standing up now and motionless, gazing into books with open mouths, the rucksacks are forgotten. I ask them later where they have travelled from and they tell me they are from Crafers.

I am asked for Catcher in the Rye, The Hobbit and anything by Garth Nix. I am told cheerfully that rainy hours are for reading.

When I go next door to the bakery it is full of ambulance officers, all in uniform and all eating furiously as they stare out at the day.

Back in the front room, visitors are all staring silently at the shelves. A boy, about 14 says YESSS and then he is holding a Patrick Rothfuss book (The Wise Man’s Fear) in front of his sister; she shrugs and refuses to look at the book.

I go back to the counter and I can continue to read a short story that I like called The Day Begins by Morris Lurie and I am reading it twice and then again because it is fabulous, although I am not sure why. I don’t read short stories but now I do.

There is a man here from Singapore. He he has found Hemmingway, Thoreau, Pearl S. Buck and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He tells me his home is in Singapore where he is a chemist and in Singapore people must really concentrate to be still and take a breath. And so he will put these books on his shelf and look at them. He has no time to read. In Singapore there is NO TIME TO READ. But this literature puts the humanity back in him. Daily life takes it out and these books can put it back in. Literature shows that we are all the same and there is no single answer. Sometimes there is not even the time to just look at things. That he is staring at things but not looking at them. He told me he is caught in work, caught in family, caught in trying to pay the bills and caught in aging parents and not quite knowing what to do.

In my car park (in the rain) when I am going home, there is a magpie on the galvanised iron fence and it sings a few small notes, it does not mind the rain.

Sculpture “Rain” by Ukrainian artist Nazar Bilyk

I’ve had lunch you dickhead!

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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