…and then he just threw everything into the creek…

The Moon and Me by Diogo Verrissimo.jpg

A customer told me this: when he was young, he read all the stuff in school. But his cousin, his good cousin, he didn’t read anything. Well, they are still mates. And his cousin said only the other day: why do you read stuff Rob, you don’t need to read, all you need to read is just one instruction book man, like a manual, like the engine manual of your car man, life only needs a couple of instruction manuals.
Rob told me that on the last day of school, long time ago, they were going home and he had in his school bag all his stuff, all his books and that. And he has kept them all until this day because he loves them, even the book on how to type, and the book on how to spell and the book on how to do other stuff, BUT his cousin, he threw all his stuff in the creek.
When Rob told me this story and told me about the part about the creek, he looked at me and we both thought about the books in the creek, the slap against surface, the heavy sinking, the triumph, yes! And everyone thinking, yeah, free…whatever…
Rob said that he kept the books on how to type. He loved those books. He always saw things a bit not like the others and all that.
Now he reads and read many things – he is reading Faction Man because he is not sure that Bill Shorten is all that he’s cracked up to be, reckons that that guy never had a proper job yet. He should of worked at MacDonald’s or something and leaned how it is. That’s what reading books told him about: work a proper job until you are despaired of it and then you can get famous. But if you don’t work a proper job, get your hands black and all that, go home owning nothing except a bad job then you’ve no right being in government and that’s why they are all wankers.

That’s ok, all my books are valuable to me…

Frank Donato

This little boy, 10 years old, came into the shop carrying a copy of Lord of the Rings under his arm, a bright red paperback with a bookmark about half way though.

He asked me for a copy of The Hobbit and I had one but it was an illustrated hardback and more expensive than the paperback reading copies. He told me he is allowed to spend his pocket money however he wants and he wanted that one.

His mother and grandmother stood back, wise, allowing him custody of his own reading life. They beamed over him their generosity and grace. Once his mother said: he’s read everything, he makes his own library. They said they did not know where this reading thing came from. They did not claim credit for it themselves. This is unusual.

He told me about Watership Down and The Little Grey Men. He asked for Goodnight Mr Tom and wondered if I knew about Tarka the Otter He wandered around and around, smiling at the books, happy with the choices even though he had read most of them. When he walked he kicked one leg up in front of him in a rhythm, round the tables and shelves he went, nodding his head at the books he knew. Then he saw a book with a pirate ship on the front, a blue one with a beautiful sapphire cover. I explained the book to him but he was not interested in hearing about the book, he only wanted to hear about the story. I said, this book is also a book to hang onto, it is valuable…

He said: I know, I know, don’t worry about that, all my books are valuable to me…

 

Illustration by Frank Donato

 

 

 

 

When Sarah Visited the Shop Again on a Cold and Dull Day

sarah.png

Sarah came this afternoon to pick up her Faber Book of Love Poetry and a copy of David Copperfield.

She said she has a shelf this big full of books as yet unread and it was time now to get stuck in. She looked pleased as she thought about this.

She talked, as she always does about how her mum read all her life, and how it was when her mum died and how it is now and how she, herself, once bought a costume and wore it, walking around the block on New Year’s Eve which outraged her friend and scandalised the neighbourhood.

She said that she has always been a one for standing near the edges of things, and that most of the time she’s had no choice.

She spoke disapprovingly of the Liberals, of Telstra and of Tony Abbott and described her bitterness against Jetstar, whose online booking system is a disgrace.

She said: I’m glad you’re open, it adds a bit of colour to my days, it does.

And this is a bit like Sarah herself, a survivor on the ragged, steep edges of things without a trace of self-pity, armored only with individuality and a love for classic literature and political biographies. And she adding colour to my day.

Soon she announced that it was time to get on home and sort the laundry. She promised to return and tell me what David Copperfield is actually like as there is no point in going by the movie of it. And she left with her books carefully packed, swinging the bag and herself through the door, into survival and the rest of the day.

 

 

Noah and Max and Christmas

Noah and Max (2).jpeg

Noah and Max are under the Christmas tree.

Max emptied the lower branches days ago and Noah gazes through the empty spokes with interest. He accepts an angel to chew. Both babies can now sit on a firm base with no toppling, they have crushed the nativity under their bottoms, they have pulled down the silver tinsel and it is their first Christmas. There is so much to do.

Wrapped gifts are, as yet, dull. Those smooth surfaces offer no angles or handholds, they contain nothing that can be seen and therefore nothing that they want.
An emerald green bauble that hangs from a branch, however, holds movement. And also light and shine that keeps changing. It has a promising surface that can be tasted. There is often an accompanying spoken warning which is predictable and comfortable.

The wooden Santa that contains another Santa inside it and yet another inside that is delightful. One piece can astonishingly go inside of another piece and come out again.
There is a bottle of good milk lying nearby which nobody wants.
It is possible to pull the loop away from every hanging element so that they can no longer hang at all. Max can jolt a decoration downwards with superb strength, it knocks him backwards and he must rebalance each time. Noah sits close by, supporting the work, a team.
It is hot, there are lists of things to do, there is still a week until Christmas, there is complaining and rushing and not enough carparks.
But Noah and Max are travelling Christmas from a stronger position. Willing to be grazed by new ideas, able to breath in colour, calling for contact and exchange, uninterested in efficiency.

Max is discarding each broken and lovely decoration to one side, he is sighting up the tree, reaching for higher profits, still out of reach. Noah is examining each shape consistently and carefully, tasting the edges, processing the contours, understanding the value.

 

The little girl who said no…

JeffWeekley_GirlWithBooksOnBoat.jpg

There is a little girl here at the shop,  hoping that her books – The Cat Warrior series – have arrived, but they have not.

She is impassive, stern,

I know she is a formidable reader, knowing exactly where she is reading and why. She will not be lured to something else while she waits. To every suggestion, she says: no.

I admire everything about her.

She is confident; she will not be swayed by any cheerful and generous hope. She is slightly contemptuous of my offerings.

I admire everything about her.

She can’t believe her books have not arrived, it has been ten days and this is what I said – ten days.

She eyes my benevolence and she will not agree.

I admire everything about her.

Finally she does look elsewhere; she does it for her mother and for me. It is her doing it for us, not for herself. But it is not a giving in, she remains dignified and generous.

She chooses The Maplin Bird by K M Peyton. This is an historical novel, brilliant,  but not an easy read for a ten year old. It is one of my favourite books.

I tell her I am impressed. She looks at me, entirely unimpressed.

I admire everything about her. When she leaves she is hugging the book to her chest and she begins reading before she is in the car, on the footpath, not even remembering to open the car door.

I admire everything about her.

 

 

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

The world is fucking flat…

20160930_100930.jpg

A young man came into the shop, fervent, purposeful. He stood at the front, agitated, and looking at me. Then he asked me for a book by its title: did I have it; did I know it, had I read it??

But I hadn’t.

He said in a low and significant voice: this book proves that the world is flat.

I said: oh wow.

He said: it’s an important book.

I said: oh wow.

He asked me if I might find a copy. I looked on the internet while he paced and sighed and wondered and I did find one. I said: it looks like an interesting book.

He corrected me: it’s a true book.

I offered to get it in for him and he flung the required money onto the counter, ecstatic.

He said: the world is flat. The world is fucking flat.

He went off to roam the rest of the shelves, not a single book of which contained the correct information regarding the shape of the planet. But he was respectful; he handled the books with reverence. He was particularly gentle with a copy of The Wind in the Willows.

He said: my sister had this book.

Then he added sadly: but people get annoyed with me, for things, you know…

 

The Small Pottery Bird

azn0htp7vfa-nathan-anderson

An old lady came in and showed me a little pottery bird she had just bought in a second hand shop. It was not a beautiful bird. She handled the small pottery bird like this; she tipped it forward and stroked the beak. Then she tipped it over and examined the flat plate of the underneath. Then she outlined the dents of the wings with her thumbs and looked at it with such delight I thought it might come alive. I could now see that it was a beautiful bird. She fitted the bird into one hand and looked at its eyes. She told me it was the nicest thing she had ever seen. Then she bought a copy of Ring of Bright Water and said goodbye.