Love’s Labour’s Lost

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Sometimes people come into the shop and I don’t notice. They just appear, and not through any door that I have. When I look up, there they are. A knot of teenagers, seated on the ground, leaning back, solemn, as though here for a meeting. I can hear the trailing ends of one idea after another.

‘The point he’s making is that….’

‘What people don’t realise….’

‘With my play, I had to…..’

‘Yeah, but that exerts…’

Someone is reading aloud. Everybody listens. The reader stands up. Finishes. Everyone dives forward with an idea….’I’ve got that on Instagram…not the book…it’s on something…’

‘No, no no, pretty much…..not that one…’

‘In The Uncommon Reader…’  Someone narrates the plot of The Uncommon Reader.

‘Listen to this…’

‘I was like…’

‘There’s this really long word in this play…’

More reading out loud.  An argument. A selfie is taken.

‘Oh my God. I’m getting that.’

‘Are you serious?’

‘I love this.’

‘The exhibition was in 1910…’

‘This was published in 1948.’

‘I don’t reckon…’

‘So what books are you grabbing hon…?’

‘I know. I don’t know. But I’m getting this now. I just googled it, I love it.

It was Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost they were reading from, and that they are now buying.

Then they leave, one girl hugging the ‘beautiful book’ and telling the others she can’t go out tonight because she has rehearsal.

 

 

A Tale from The Decameron, 1916, John William Waterhouse

 

 

 

Generous, joyous, wonderful

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Alan came into the shop today to pick up some books. He wanted to talk about The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (which he saw on TV last night).

Alan has a book in which he copies down carefully all the books he wants to read. The list includes authors, publishers, dates, and significant quotations. He reads these out to me. When he has finished all these books, he will find more titles listed in the back of them. Then he will come back again with another list. He said he’s on an endless journey of thinking. These days though, he needs a sleep every now and again as well. Then he wakes up and is off again. He found four good books today. All history. He loves history – all that going back in time, looking at what happened. Twice he left and came back with something he forgot to tell me. Again to recommend a certain book to me. Again to lend me a book worth reading. He is generous, joyous, and wonderful.

Artwork by Peter de Seve

Pirates

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People came in off the train today.. Possibly all together but I wasn’t sure. There was a doorway snarl…. shut the door Ern, look at the weather…and an argument over roses…let them be, it’s too late to fiddle with them now

They came in and out, looking for the bakery, needing black coffee, strong, and The Readers Digest Book of Roses, holding the door open for other customers, looking for Bob and Ern who have gone off..

One lady talked and talked in the back room. Her husband, leaning on the counter with his eyes closed, suddenly realized he should have been in there, listening. He rose up magnificently, said, oh Jesus, and powered away from the counter, elbows out and a good balance.

There were more voices, calling, fluting, floating, as groups gathered, changed plans and agreed with each other with narrowed eyes…just do as she says…

A young family burst in, the child shouting, here we are, back for more pirates, I already read book one…so we came back, if we ate all our oranges we were allowed…

There are three couples all safely inside the shop. There is a disappointing lack of Roses, Grown the Natural Way. Ern has been found. Violet should go home. Chris has found a book of possibly good poetry.

We’ll come back when we have more time…. good place, good place. Though…

The child with the pirates is under the table, reading fiercely, unable to get up and leave, a divine three dollars spent, he is on book two, book three is breathing next to him.

His mum says to me in a tired way, not sure why he reads so much, his grandpop is the same.

The child pulls his eyes from the page, outraged.

Mum. Pop’s a pirate. He told me it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best things to have in a bookshop by Claudia Kirby, aged 9

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  1. Good books for reading.
  2. Teddy bears around the shop to hold the books.
  3. A few chairs for sitting in case you don’t want to stand up reading.
  4. Bookmarks for the books so you know where you’re up to.
  5. Business cards to say who you are.
  6. Decorations that are awesome, like peacocks.
  7. Bookends to hold stuff up.
  8. Old interesting books for people who like vintage.
  9. Books with interesting titles such as A Series of Unfortunate Events.
  10. A bookshop looks good with some fairy lights.

 Claudia Kirby, aged 9

“I ransack public libraries and find them full of sunk treasure.”

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Virginia Woolf wrote this thought about sunk treasure in one of her diaries. I still get requests for Virginia Woolf at the shop. Usually by students. Once a very young reader piled up everything in classics with To the Lighthouse on the top. She had not read Virginia Woolf (yet). She also had Dracula, Frankenstein, Ethan Frome, Sweet Thursday, Treasure Island, The Chrysalids and The Silmarillion. Then her mum came in and said it was too many to carry. She had to put at least half back, which she slowly did, but she kept the Virginia Woolf. I hope she enjoys it.

 

I want to read this book

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Michael came into the shop with a gift for me, a copy of The White Nile by Alan Moorehead, hardbound and heavy, magnificent.

He said, you’ll like this, you know. And I could tell you some things about Alan Moorehead! Whenever Michael refers to a book or an author, he bows, an acknowledgement of his gratitude to them. Sometimes his voice trembles. He will hold a book as he talks about it, leaning over it, turning it, regarding it as though astounded that somehow, it found its way to him!

This always makes me want to read what he is telling me about.

He is on his way to the bakery this morning, to read his current joy, Torill Kornfeldt. I have seen him in there at the side counter, sitting electrified, his cup of tea gone cold.

Hand holding a book by Adolph von Menzel

 

 

 

Oh, Mate

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Like Water For Chocolate. A reader visited the shop asking for this book, I didn’t have it, I have never read it and he was delighted. He said, oh mate. There were no words for it, so, suddenly, I wanted to read it. He found everything he could about the book on his phone for me, he didn’t say much himself except, oh mate. He just stood there, not needing to do anything. There were no words for this book and I understood.
He looked here and there just in case the book was here and I just didn’t realise. But it wasn’t. He said that I must read it because I just must. There were no other books at this time that he wanted to mention, just this singular book, for which he had no words. He said, we are going to be good friends, mate! He said this as he left, back to work, back to life, back to water, like chocolate, and I thought, no wonder we read.

Straight up and down

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A child visiting the shop told me that her best book is The Stones of Green Knowe. It’s an old book because the pages are yellow and bent and it was her mother’s book. It’s about ghosts. It’s a straight up and down book and is about ghosts.

When she told me this, she made straight up and own motions with her hands. The ghosts are good and come forward in time to meet Tolly. It’s about Saxons. She said that it’s an up and down book like stones are. And that you could not forget Roger because for one thing he was a ghost and also he was old and from the olden days in history, one thousand years ago when there were stone castles. That’s how good this book was. It stayed in your mind like a stone or a pot.

Bless you darling

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He came into the shop and the first thing he said was wow, sorry! 
Then he told me about Moby Dick and did I know that every tough gangster in every big deal movie featured that exact gangster in jail reading Moby Dick…
So now, this customer was reading Moby Dick and taking a long time about it because each time he returned to the book he had to go backwards a couple of chapters and regroup , you know, to get it all going again.
His girlfriend was the most intelligent person he knew and was always reading, always, all the time and never stopped and so now he was going read everything too.
He talked about Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New World, some guy had told him to read these as well,
He said: lovely!
He said that his girlfriend was like, amazing, and that I would think she was the most intelligent person I had ever met, and this is because she is. She told him to get reading and he was like: all right, all right I’m doing it. He loved Moby Dick.
Moby Dick (he said) had heroes and death and bargains, it had toughness and tough blokes and all the time this bloody whale. Does he even get the whale? What’s with the whale? It had boats and that shit that makes candles. But the tough people.
He had both hands raised up trying to sketch out the toughness, but he stopped and looked embarrassed. He said: I guess you hear this all the time…the trouble is that I’m just getting into it.
He reminded me that his girlfriend was such an attraction and I would see it if I met her.
Then he left, swung out of the door the same way he came in and said: bless you darling, it’s good that you are into books like this, and then he was gone…

Photography by Doreen Kilfeather