There is a white ute parked directly outside my shop. And there are three tradesmen who have climbed out and are standing together, all of them checking their phones, and all of them looking up and around for the bakery. One of them carries a can of coke and a set of ear muffs, and he turns and walks to my door and shoulders his way in, he is still reading his phone. Then he realizes a mistake. He says, ‘Oh fuck, sorry mate!’
His friend, still outside, says, ‘You fucking idiot, that’s not the bakery.’
His other friend, who is on his phone, pauses to inform the others (by pointing) where the bakery is. The tradesman who entered my door gives them both the finger (rather magnificently, because he bends his knees and arcs with both arms and the earmuffs and the coke) this fingered insult over the whole earth and especially over them. He says, ‘But I do need a book, I need the next Game of Thrones before the rest of that shit comes out on screen.’
His friend says, ‘Man, you are not John Snow. You are, like, just a dickhead’.
And the tradesman (who is now John Snow) says that he is John Snow, and that he can read.
The third tradesman puts his phone in his pocket and says, ‘I’m eating now. You two bathrooms can just stay here.’
And then they all move toward the bakery; three friends, John Snow, dickheads, bathrooms, whatever.
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 BoxBook, ABiography of Cleopatra by Margaret George, Heart of Darkness, The BrothersKaramazov, Catcher in the Rye, an autobiography of Jimmy Barnes and Vargic’sMiscellany 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.
It is not hard to begin the day when you have been given a tomato.
I was presented with this tomato, a gift, because I had a lucky copy of Cranford which was urgently needed. All day I looked at the tomato because I have never been given such a grateful or unusual or heartfelt gift.
A young man who bought The Little World of Don Camillo said that the tomato was a nice one and that all Don Camillo books were iconic.
Janet bought a copy of Go Set a Watchman because it is on her reading list for next month and hopefully she will get in ahead of time. She said sadly that she cannot keep up with her group no matter how fast she reads. That Pepys got in the way of SaltCreek. And SaltCreek was just flung aside… but then Lady of Hay moved in the front of everything but now she was reading Oliver Sacks. And so on…
I showed her The Commonwealth of Thieves and said that this book came up because of Gould’s Book of Fish and had taken over Olive Kitteridge even though both books were equally good. I said sadly that now I was being devastated by Game of Thrones and that I could not cope with the death of Lady, the wolf hound. Janet was horrified and said I should have tried to hold out for longer. She herself had the whole set at home but had not read them and couldn’t tell her son as he had given them to her for her birthday. I showed her my gift, a tomato, and she said it was a fitting tribute to Cranford because that was written by Elizabeth Gaskell. As she left she told me that her reading group are doing Gone Girl which is good but the sex scenes are far too graphic for her. Also the group does a thorough physiological analysis of the text but she herself just wants to enjoy it.
I had a small amount of time to remove a spider and look through the Game of Thrones paperbacks to consider the reading commitment.
I am told that Elizabeth Jolley does not let the reader make any easy judgements.
Andrew drops in to explain the history of the Lannister family and the brilliant character of Tyrion Lannister. Andrew is sympathetic regarding the death of the wolf hound but warns me not to become emotionally involved with the characters.
A lady has a long conversation on her phone about being in a coma. Then she buys three books by Mary Gentle and tells me that they will come in useful.
I am asked for Rachael Treasure and Herman Hesse
A lady tells me how to dispose of unwanted books and cutlery.
Another customer, looking through the Boy and Beast books with her grandsons tells me that she is really into books. “But where I used to work we couldn’t even give them away, it’s good to see people still trying.”
She tells her grandsons about William Shakespeare, that he was a great literary artist. But one brother was looking through his Skulduggery book and did not attend her information and the other just wanted to go to the bakery.
Harry is looking for King Arthur books and recites several times for me his lines in the play: Young King Arthur and the story of Excalibur.
“And you sir are a rapscallious rascally hooligan and the first cousin of a degenerate scoundrel.”
I am impressed and another customer, David, tells him to keep up the good work. He said he was quite an actor himself a long time ago and once acted in King Lear.
David is here to find a gift for a true friend who lives in Tailem Bend; he is searching for not just anything and wants a book that can express a lifetime of gratitude. I said that I understood; that I too have such a friend. He tells me he might go for Herman Hesse.
He asks about the tomato on my table and I tell him it was a gift and he says the simplest things are the most profound and that I should hand it on, symbolic of all things true.
Serenity, who has dropped in to help me pack up, says that I should eat the tomato and that for a present she would rather have Hover Soccer.
Two tradesmen are discussing the political biographies outside the window as they enjoy hot pies from the bakery. (It is freezing outside but they are comfortable and enjoying their break.) They say that there is no need to read these things; you can just see it all on TV, same shit, different day. But then one of them allows that the Julia Gillard book is good as his wife has read it. His friend quickly agrees.
An older man tells me his is very interested in Pat Barker and that he would like to see book shops continue.
I watched a concerned mother follow her adult daughter around the shop murmuring that there is a better edition of that book…and that book…and that book…she comes over to tell me that her daughter and granddaughter are mad for books and that she is too. The daughter certainly looks mad.
Patrick White was furious a lot too. I know because I am reading Flaws in the Glass and I have it here next to me and The Shorter Pepys.
Patrick White’s furious face. I admire it very much as I do all of his books but I don’t think I have any useful scholarly reasons. But this may in itself be useful as it leaves me more time to read and drink champagne.
A small girl says to her father who is reading Asterix and the Banquet: what do you mean that this is funny. She asks him three times and he says: wait until you grow up.
An old lady tells her grandson that he does not know what it is to get old. He asks her: but what about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and she says: let’s just sit for a while. He reminds her that it is important because his teacher is reading it to the class and she is reading it too slow. He says: hey Grandma, what book will you get then? And she tells him that she likes a nice love story or Virginia Woolf. When she was young she always read Virginia Woolf……her grandson tells her that he cannot see any wolf books.
I am asked why Nineteen Eighty Four is still so significant.
A young man, who looks like a Viking, tells me that Game of Thrones was actually based on two wars: the Hundred Year’s War AND The Wars of the Roses. People tend to think that it was only the Wars of the Roses. Do you have China Miéville? Then he tells me that he’s been waiting for Tamora Pierce to put out another book and that he’s been waiting for ten years now. He looked at his watch to demonstrate himself waiting. Then he asks for The Shepherd’s Crown (Terry Pratchett) but I don’t have it. He says that I should have has many Terry Pratchetts as possible as these books are more significant than people realise.
An older man bought One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and rode off on his motorbike with the book shoved down the front of his leather jacket.
I have some books to sort and shelve. I am keeping Pages from the GoncourtJournals (Edmond and Jules Goncourt) for myself. This is because I admired the cover and opened the book and read an entry, a reference to George Sand. I know nothing about her but I do know that I must read this book.
End of January 1852
Argument between Mme Sand and Clesinger:
Mme Sand: I’ll publish an account of your behaviour.
Clesinger: Then I’ll do a carving of your backside. And everybody’ll recognise it.
Robert comes by to pick up more volumes in his Myths and Legends Series and I show him the Goncourt Journals. He tells me that he loves the French. He said he has had three cups of good coffee and his brain is going mad…the best time to read. I said “Well, good luck with the Myths of the Middle Ages….” and he said that the election campaigns are keeping us all stuck in the middle ages anyway.