You’ve been here a donkey’s age

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A couple came into the shop. He stopped at the window. He swayed back and forth, thinking and thinking. He stood in the same place. He wasn’t looking at the books. He was looking at something else, but I couldn’t see it.

His wife beamed and beamed at the shelves. She hurled her approval, but quietly, and everywhere. She said, ‘I like Fiona McIntosh.’ She came back slowly with three books. There was no hurry. There was time.  She said to her husband, ‘What else?’

He said, ‘The devil if I know!’

He swayed back and forth, looking at her. He shone his own approval all over her. She was already bent over, but she bent over some more, laughing slowly.

He said, ‘You’ve been here a donkey’s age!’

He said to me, ‘She’ll be a donkey’s age.’ He nodded silently, agreeing with the end of a vast argument that was flung back over a long time, perhaps a century.

She nodded, agreeing with the end of a vast argument that was flung back over a long time, perhaps a century.

He swayed back and forth. She beamed.

 

 

This Weirdy Weather

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Yesterday was hot, and the ducks on the road into Strathalbyn sat too close to the road and refused to move. People came into the shop and said, ‘God, it’s hot!’

Today is cold, rain in the morning and people coming in and saying, ‘My God, this is strange.’

One man said that a second ago, it was summer.

His girlfriend said that she doubted it, and would he pay for her books.

He said, ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ But he paid for the books and looked pleased.

She said, ‘I love this weirdy weather, you can read in it.’

He said, ‘I know.’

She pointed out that he didn’t like reading.

He said, ‘I know, but I might be going to start,’ and he looked around for a book to start with.

She said, ‘I don’t believe you’, and looked pleased with him.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

Wheel of Fortune

Dimitar Lazarov

Two people came into the shop and left again after about half a minute. This is because the Kevin Rudd biography was NOT the one they wanted.

They’d stood outside and argued about it for half an hour. Bending to examine the book through the window where it sat in the sun, doing nothing. Rapping the window, right in Kevin’s face. They moved away and came back. Once she partly opened the door, but the argument pulled her back out again. Finally, they made it inside. But it was the wrong book. He said, ‘Not to worry, not missing much with that fool.’

‘As if you’re going to win Wheel of Fortune, Trevor!’

The man, Trevor, said he thought he WOULD win Wheel of Fortune. He said that if he won a fortune, he would give it to the birds.

Artwork by Gerhard Gluck

The man who forgot his glasses

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How we rotate our faces! Try to add levers to the eyes to push them further out – work properly, for God’s sake. Draw the mouth backwards, teeth forwards,  screw up the eye sockets.

‘What’s that one?”

“That’s Kingsley Amis. That’s Bennett…but I don’t think you agree with him.’

“No…no, indeed.’

This couple are examining the top shelf of Classics, but he can’t see properly.

‘That’s Enid Bagnold.’

‘Who the devil?’

 ‘National Velvet.’ And that’s James Baldwin.”

‘Silly writer.’

‘I don’t think so.’

They continue on, murmuring, agreeing and arguing.

‘No. Listen, I said…Bellow. Saul Bellow.’

‘Well, I don’t like the young writers. Is that Dickens?’

‘That’s Dickens.’

‘Ah…David Copper?’

‘Oliver.’

‘AH….My God, is that Durrell? Which brother?’

‘Lawrence.’

‘God, really? What have they got?’

‘All of them.’

‘…I’ll take Justine.’

‘I bet you will.’

They moved to Art. I can’t hear what they are saying, but I can hear the click and whir of the interested eye sockets, the loaded brain, the immense experience. He turns around.

‘Damn those glasses.’

‘Well, go and get them.’ She glares him into a decision.

He made one.

When he came back to the shop, he stood outside in the cold, pinned to the window outside, looking through at a Roald Dahl biography that he could have looked at in the warmth inside.  He peered, turning his head back and forth to get the details. He finally came in, and bent a brief sideways glance on me, his eyes, now magnified, were enormous, a three dimensional glare. But he was pleased. He continued onwards.

He forgot Art. He got caught in Young Readers.

He examined Swallows and Amazons. He said, ‘Ah.’

He looked at Geoffrey Trease, No Boats on Bannermere, and said, ‘Ah’.

His wife called out, ‘Look here.’

And he said, ‘EH?’ He didn’t move. He was back with Durrell. ‘Ah, goody, good and good,’

His wife called again, ‘Look at this.’

But he didn’t move.

She said, ‘Are you coming?’

He lifted his shoulders and shuffled past me; he said, ‘There’s no peace.’

 

Artwork by Shishkin Andrey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s harder with a piano: The old couple who read a poem out loud

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Have you ever seen a mind thinking?

A couple read this line out loud from a poem I have taped to the wall in the shop, bobbing about, delighted to find a poem on the wall and looking at each other with amazed, hilarious eyes.

(They are side by side, leaning in, shoulders touching, experienced and fearless).

Out loud, they read it to each other:

Have you ever seen a mind

Thinking?

It’s like an old cow

Trying to get through the pub door

Carrying a guitar in its mouth;

Who are they reading it to? Not to me. They haven’t even noticed me. It’s to each other. They sway about and laugh and keep reading: HA, HA, HA, this is brilliant!

I agree; it’s Chris Wallace-Crabbe, and it is brilliant. It’s just that nobody ever noticed it before. They turned around, and said to me, we like your bookshop!

Have you ever seen a mind

thinking?

It’s like an old cow

trying to get through the pub door

carrying a guitar in its mouth;

old habits keep breaking in

on the job in hand;

it keeps wanting

to do something else:

like having a bit of a graze,

for example…

And they keep reading, down, down, and down, dropping through the poem, which, being Chris Wallace-Crabbe, is astonishing and endless, right to where the cow gets through the door but doesn’t know how.

Because, how do minds (with guitars) get through doors?

Anyway, the cow has to know that it’s harder with a piano.

It’s harder with a piano.

When they read this, the delicious middle line, the wife shrieks, and says, briiiiiilliant. She looks at her husband: oh, don’t you remember? I do.

 

 

Introspection by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

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The ladies and their husbands

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The ladies came in first. They wanted Flight of the Eagle. They also wanted Kerry McGinnis. I heard them say to each other, they won’t have those in this shop. They entered in a leaning forward, questing sort of way. They held their handbags out in front of them, like torches.

They also wanted Peter Carey. They thought I wouldn’t have those in this shop. They leaned back in front of classics, but there was nothing useful there. Then they came to the counter and said they couldn’t find anything. They were disappointed. I gave directions to the land of proper books just as the husbands came in and they both went straight to Biographies and stood there for a while. One of them said, look at this, it’s Sting, I don’t mind him. Then they looked at a Donald Trump biography and said nothing at all.

They turned and looked at me. I apologised about Donald Trump. They nodded and relaxed, fair enough.

Then the wives came out, pleased because they had found Peter Watt AND Jilly Cooper. A double triumph. They wanted to tell their husbands about Peter Watt AND Jilly Cooper. About how they were great etc.

The husbands looked around uneasily and suggested the bakery.

 

Russell Brand

ef8e2ee1f30d43b52e6b0c477ef666dc.jpgThere is an old man here leaning into the biographies while his wife searches for something significant in the spirits. She calls it exactly that, the spirits. She told me later that what she hoped for was some useful reading in numerology but at this stage does not know where to begin the quest.
Her husband does not say much, he spoke to me about the weather and the dust and then turned back to the biographies. He is looking at a biography of Russell Brand.
His wife returned to ask him what he has found and he silently holds up the Russell Brand. But she says, well, we aren’t reading that are we…
He doesn’t reply so she slants in silently, moves in on the shoulder where he is not expecting an approach. She says briskly, not that book! And he, weaving backwards in alarm, farts loudly enough to wake the dead (this would please Russell Brand no end) and hurls the book back onto the display, and she backs off in disgust and they leave abruptly, purchasing nothing, and leaving me with numerology and Russell Brand.

Bless you darling

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He came into the shop and the first thing he said was wow, sorry! 
Then he told me about Moby Dick and did I know that every tough gangster in every big deal movie featured that exact gangster in jail reading Moby Dick…
So now, this customer was reading Moby Dick and taking a long time about it because each time he returned to the book he had to go backwards a couple of chapters and regroup , you know, to get it all going again.
His girlfriend was the most intelligent person he knew and was always reading, always, all the time and never stopped and so now he was going read everything too.
He talked about Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New World, some guy had told him to read these as well,
He said: lovely!
He said that his girlfriend was like, amazing, and that I would think she was the most intelligent person I had ever met, and this is because she is. She told him to get reading and he was like: all right, all right I’m doing it. He loved Moby Dick.
Moby Dick (he said) had heroes and death and bargains, it had toughness and tough blokes and all the time this bloody whale. Does he even get the whale? What’s with the whale? It had boats and that shit that makes candles. But the tough people.
He had both hands raised up trying to sketch out the toughness, but he stopped and looked embarrassed. He said: I guess you hear this all the time…the trouble is that I’m just getting into it.
He reminded me that his girlfriend was such an attraction and I would see it if I met her.
Then he left, swung out of the door the same way he came in and said: bless you darling, it’s good that you are into books like this, and then he was gone…

Photography by Doreen Kilfeather

Rick and Lenore

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Rick and Lenore came into the shop before I had opened for the day: they came in accidently (they said) and stepped over the vacuum cleaner and said sorry, sorry, sorry mate…and kept on going around the shelves, shedding enthusiasm and criticism and telling me that it was going to be a grey old day. Every time Lenore found something of stupendous value she said: Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick there’s more of it ‘ere.
And Rick said: Yeah, yeah, yeah, ha! Don’t rush me, mate.
And Lee stood impatiently, the air around her became impatient, the whole gray day became frustrated until Rick came to his senses, sensed the atmosphere, sensed the danger and said: …all right, all right, all right…mate! All right. Mate!
Then she looked pleased even though he had not yet looked at the pearl she had found, she moved to another shelf, she found Footrot Flats and she said: Rick, Rick, Rick, look what I got… and he kept her enthusiasm and discoveries protected in the same good way while he distributed his own fervour from shelf to shelf with narrowed eyes and a questing face. He found the Westerns, that poor, limp, worn out collection that live near the counter, and he himself became limp with delight and he whispered to himself: God, look at this lot, he brought five of them to the counter, he seemed to bow down with sheer approval.
Well, I’m goin’ in ‘ere. Lee said this loudly, winning back devotion, earning consideration and so Rick came to his senses again.
All right, all right…don’t go on…and he looked pleased.
Do you want to get this, remember we saw the movie…? Remember that movie…. I could of died.
Rick agreed with the movie. They looked at each other and drew the movie around them and they were together.
When they came to the counter to pay for the trembling westerns, Lee said to me that there is a frog shop in Goolwa and there are some real beauties in there too,
Then, like everyone else, they left, taking the Westerns, their movie, the frog shop and their rich, delicious life of they, themselves away again and they were gone.

Illustration by Korean artist, Park Dami

These will last one week

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They are standing very still, this couple who came into the shop in the early morning and she examines the books leaning first on one leg, then the other, still, always still. She holds one book against her waist and reads the back of another. He says something and she looks up at him, stares at him, doesn’t answer, they stare at each other. She looks back down at the book she is holding. He rocks on his heels and whistles a little. She has raised a stack. He looks at her as though she were raising hell and he looks proud, he looks at me to see if I have noticed that life today is a masterpiece.
When they came in, she came in first. She plunged into the books, into the choices, leaving the bright summer day outside easily and gliding in without looking at me. I thought she scanned the perimeters of possibility within a few seconds and favourably too because her face went from holiday to intense. Maybe he recognised the flags because he squared up and rocked on his heels and made ready to carry the world.
He carried some of these books over to me, set them neatly on the counter and looked at me and said: this isn’t all. And they’re not for me because I’m not that clever.
Then he went to retrieve more and suddenly he appeared backwards through the second doorway, just half of him because he was leaning sharply back and he said again: that’s not all. That’s not all – and those books for her will last……ONE WEEK.
When she came out to pay for the books, he was already stacking her world into his arms. And she looked at him with her head on one side, considering something and then they left, and she was leaning closely in with her arm across his shoulders so that they could not get through the doorway easily and had to jostle and wedge and they are nearly dropping the books and he is saying: don’t worry, I’ve got ’em.