But the Virginia Woolfs have begun. Dancing deeply, touching hips, smoking, and laughing lightly in a deranged and fabulous way, bowing toward Cosmo Cosmolino. The Maya Angelous with joined hands: Byatts, Dillards, Padmanabhans, Miles Franklin, all the Grenvilles, the Dumonts, the Lucashenkos, a grid of lights, a festival, a refusal to wait.
The crimes and thrillers start a weird kind of line dance with revolver displays that nevertheless looks dull.
The Text Classics, in a grid of hot yellow, perform a dance with neutral expressions. Janet Frame, Arnold Zable, Boyd Oxlade, Patrick White with a slight smile, stepping and side stepping and stepping, not agreeing, but at least stepping.
Groups straggle forward, looking nonchalant, looking for a gap.
Joyce and Proust, in different groups, passing back to back, palm to palm with the next dancer.
The McCarthys moving carefully around the Hellmans.
An FBI History and Charles Bukowski eye each other. The Bukowskis move to a different bar.
‘Listen to this, boys.’ It was Cubanisimo! It prepared a sentence, opened its covers to read aloud. Everyone cheered. They all liked the Cuban, who waited for quiet.
…and I went my way, which means preferring nights to evenings, choosing night instead of day, living by night and squeezing my memory, I mean my life, into a glass with ice or into a negative or into memory.
There was a pause. The dancing continued slowly, but heads and book covers were turned toward the Cuban. There was the chink of an icecube into a glass from somewhere in the shop.
‘Thanks Guillermo,’ someone said, and everyone cheered again.
Now, a set of Great Journeys coming through. Shouting, having their first drink, consulting maps, checking Trivago, a journey always on the horizon. James Cook and Mary Wortley Montagu arguing ‘There will be no hunting pigs in this dance’. Olaudah Equiano looks at them both, says nothing. The Yutangs smile as they pass, impassive.
‘Look at the Thrillers, Eastwick. Every day, a brilliant story.’ The classics were back on the counter, breathing too heavily in my ear, becoming annoying. ‘Thrillers take you West, further each time. But so what! West is a cliché. It’s East where we want to go. Look at the Virginia Woolfs. They’re drill bits, boring East in search of the truth. Think East, it’s sunrise. God, Eastwick, have you read anything? You know what Woolfy’s doing now? She’s writing a biography of herself writing a biography of all the biographers who’ve attempted to write a biography of her so far. And what’s Tom Cruise doing?’ They all snigger, looking at the Lee Childs, who are trying on bowties.
‘It’s not Tom Cruise,’ I said patiently. ‘He doesn’t write books. Its Lee Child.’
‘Eastwick, we know you’re going East, we saw you reading Helen Garner.’
I look at them all. ‘What will you do, all of you if I have to close? There’ll be an auction.
‘Well, actually some of us are staying. We all love Thai food.’
‘You don’t need me.’
‘Never did. Sorry Easto. We’re made of writing. Indestructible. Go read like hell and write your shit.’
‘Well, I’ll see you in the morning.’
There was no answer. The books were moving around me. The shop was all horse, flanks, and hinges, spinning and reeling, smoking, coughing. They were putting out chairs, tables, moving the smoke machine, setting up a market.
I moved slowly to the entrance, pausing at the door.
‘Why the buckets of water?’ I ask.
‘So we don’t catch on fire during the party.’
‘Who’s on duty?’
They looked toward the buckets. The Greek Myths was on duty, leaning over the pails, gazing rapt into the pools at their own reflections.
‘God, they’re useless’. The New York Reviews shot off, rising furiously in the air to dong the Greek Myths back to the present.
I left them to it.
To be continued…