“You are so lucky to work here…”


July and midwinter and everybody sits in cars to eat their dinner from the bakery and stare through their fogged up windows at my windows and I see them point to the books and say things.

I was asked for The Canadian series ( historical, eight volumes and terrifically good, it’s for my wife, she won’t come out in this cold ) and also for The Oracle of Rama ( doubt that you’d have that though). Then, Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell, Game of Thrones (everything, please, please after book three, part one, as I am smashing through the TV series).  I was asked for A Farewell to Arms.

I was asked what was so good about the Justine Quartet and if Salmon Rushdie has written anything new.

I was asked for Dick Bruna and was pleased to have one small copy of The Lifeboat. The customer said to me that I have the best job and asked me what would we do without books.

I was told by somebody that he had always wanted to read a book about Shakespeare but he kept putting it off.

A lady said that even if I hid the good books, she will easily find them.

Outside it is still freezing. Inside it is warm and I am reshelving the Australiana and sorting the Travel.

Serenity comes in to admire her drawing that I have put on the wall. A family come in from Victoria and are delighted to find Specky Magee. I sell a Kylie Tennant’s The Battlers to a student who is not studying it. She says that she needs a break from reading for assignments and want to read properly for a while.

I am reading George Sand and I think that she is fabulously brave. And not ordinary.

An old lady complains that she can only take five steps outside and then it rains again.

I am selling about 5 books per day which comes to about $30. Only a second-hand book shop can get away with this because inside the bookshop is a gold mine.


Mme Sand: I’ll publish an account of your behaviour.


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 Goncourt Journals (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.