Dark outside, not cold

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Dark outside, not cold. We’ve had rain and all night the garden was drinking. This morning, it just lay there.

Robert came into the shop this morning, furious because his friend had a joint when he was 16 years old,  and now at 60, can’t get a job. He said the government has ruined this country. I am glad he came in. I always feel better, adjusted and balanced, whenever Robert visits. It is a calibration of sorts. I forget what is valuable. Now I remember again.

A lady bought The Blind Assassin, Caleb’s Crossing, The Awakening, and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

A man told be about Charlie Chaplin. His wife said, ‘Come along, that’s enough of Charlie Chaplin.’

I was advised to read History of the Rain. I ordered a 1902, first edition copy of Ethel Turner’s Little Mother Meg. This is for Lily, an eleven year old collector with a discerning eye for vintage. Scott raced past but didn’t come in, although he grinned evilly through the door. Someone hit their head on one of my hanging balloons and said, ‘Damn these decorations. Where’s the bakery?’

The sun’s out. The next person will tell me about it.

The next person is Robert, back again and who never notices the weather anyway, so I get to tell him about it. He says he’s waiting for the government to start taxing us for it!

 

 

Winter and reading and a glass of wine

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Under the door of the shop there is a gap, and a thin straw of cold enters quietly, all day long. I have fingerless gloves. Excellent for typing. For looking up any possible gossip about Virginia Woolf that I may have missed. Winter is always bright with possibility because to stay in is acceptable.

One couple came in this afternoon and said, it’s warm in this little place.

He looked like Terry Pratchett, sort of intensely occupied. She looked like Vita Sackville-West, so was probably looking for Virginia Woolf.

They stayed in the room furthest from the warmth for ages, but didn’t seem to notice it. They had, each, a mighty selection when they finally came to the counter and noticed me. I said wisely, ah, the winter reading….

He straightened up in surprise, well, yes of course. He had three Terry Pratchett books.

I said, with a glass of wine….

He straightened up again, this time with joy, well yes of course. We have the place for it at our house, an old place, space for books. The shelves are all bending. Her stuff. He looked at her with an expression of acute happiness.

She presented her Margaret Atwoods and nodded, nursing that private power that comes with Margaret Atwood and husbands like him, and said, it’s winter, time to stay in.

They bobbed back out into the weather, serene, parting the winter into two fields with their own bright path right through the centre of it.

 

Old House in Stepney, Adelaide (photography by me)

 

 

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale

 

Screenshot_2017-09-01-20-57-15.pngI have finished reading it.

I read it whenever I could find a minute, not stopping even once. I read it at the shop and was asked what I am reading. Visitors said: oh yes, that book. Or they said: what’s it about? Or they have heard of it, know of it, mean to read it, want to get a copy, know someone who has read it, have seen the television series, don’t want to read it, they do not like books about oppressive and brutal regimes etc, etc.

And it is a brutal regime, a totalitarian society called Gilead, set a part of the old United States and one that treats women as property. No nice things happen. I was advised by one customer that everyone should read this. It was first published in 1985 and I read that Margaret Atwood is as deeply concerned with oppressive regimes as she is with the widely held attitude that they won’t happen here. And though it was written a while ago and is about a time far into the future, it is about each one of us, about the small and normal things we scratch around doing to live our lives and would keep on doing if we were to enter a new life that we could not survive.   I was asked if it had a happy ending but I think that Margaret Atwood is too sublime a writer to need the happy endings. Life is rarely about these. It does seem so very important to read these books.

I have no copies of this book in my shop and I cannot part with mine.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Edinburgh International Book Festival

I am about to read The Handmaid’s Tale. It is written by Margaret Atwood and I have never read it before, I have been told it is confronting. A lady also told me this morning that it is disturbing and she said by God, the Canadians have some good writers!

It is endlessly interesting to be on the unread side of a book. And to consider it from its smooth side.

Another lady told me that everybody should read it. I said that I had only read The Blind Assassin so far and she said urgently that this isn’t enough, that I must read more, that we should all be reading more Margaret Atwood.

Bill saw my book and said he had never heard of her. He said that Bryce Courtenay was good enough for him. Robert was tremendously impressed when I described the book to him. He said he should read it but is very committed to the ancient Greeks right now.

I heard that there is a TV series of The Handmaid’s Tale and that it is brilliant, but I am advised to always read the book first. Leanne said she might give it a go. She said: well done for trying the new stuff!

Most books are new to me because I am not a fast reader and the more I read the slower I go. Every good book insists on a new way of regarding basically everything. I am expecting The Handmaid’s Tale to be good because The Blind Assassin, which I read years ago has still never left me alone.

With books, there is no end…

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A young reader, Ben, thanks me for his horse book. He says: thank you for that horse book. Do you think that you could now find a book about how to look after dogs and maybe put it out the back to save it for me or something? As they left his mother said: well that was a lucky find, I reckon.

I rang a lady to tell her that her books were here but her husband said that she is in hospital now and may never come back out.

Outside is full of tradesmen, laden with food and jogging back to waiting vehicles.

Robert has had the flu. He said he caught it in the art gallery and said that he cannot even taste his cigarettes and has not been able to read properly. He is outraged about catching the flu in an art gallery and said that this is typical Adelaide.

David said today that it is very difficult to stay focussed until a whole poem drops out. He said: I just cannot do it, but my mother could.

Outside now the street is empty. There is only a police car and they are in the bakery.

I finish Gould’s Book of Fish and Anaïs Nin (A Woman Speaks).

Two sisters are circling the table of children’s books, eyeing each other and the books on  display.

Karl tells me how important it is to have a chair in a bookshop for the customers. He buys Brother Fish because he knows personally about the Korean War and advises me to keep going, do keep going. Jenny brings a biography to the counter: Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking. Karl reads aloud from the back cover and she tells him to be quiet.

A family come in, a man with a young wife that the children call by her first name. He stands back hopeful, but she sits down and is exhausted. The children are pleased with the books, finding Geronimo Stilton and Zac Powers. She offers to buy them any books they would like but they put them back on the table, even the Geronimo Stilton Red Ruby.

I am asked for Saigon by Anthony Grey and any books by Tamora Pierce

I have found another book to read for myself and it is by an Australian writer called Elizabeth Jolley. It is called An Innocent Gentlemen. I can sense another ambush and I put the book back down for now.

A small boy asks if it is ok to come in if you are wearing soccer boots.

Last night I finished Anaïs Nin and today, the whole day, is about Anaïs Nin again. Once Margaret Atwood ambushed me this way and I could not get away for a long time and it was The Blind Assassin that did it.

A man stands outside the window and stares at a biography of Germaine Greer. He has been standing there for a long time. Another man tells me a long story about a library book that he lost in New Zealand. I decide to re read The Blind Assassin.

I am asked for Memoirs of a Geisha and advised to read it. I tell the customer that the day is alive with choices.

A man kneels with his small daughters amongst the Fairy Wishes books. He says: put them back properly remember. Don’t leave your beanie. The younger sister tells him that she wants every single book. He leans into the shelves to consider a safe response.

A lady says to someone outside, out of view: Stephen, this town has book shops. Later she came back to get a book she saw in the window. She said her friends are at the bakery and she lied to them about where she was going because they said she could not buy any more books. I said that I understood her predicament. She said that not everyone is interested in books.

She is gazing along the shelves, reaching for Sir Walter Scott and she says: with books there is no end.