“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.

 

…all that light…

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I visited the Flinders University Library last Wednesday instead of opening the shop. I went there not as a student but as a visitor but I can borrow the books through my daughter who is a student there. So I do not have to borrow as a student, but as a borrower and reading where I please.

And so I am not really there at all, although I am somewhere. The agony of choice available to me in a university library when I am not a student is so indulgent that it became impossible to remember the day or the place.

It is being away in some place that contains immense possibility and invitation which it does because it is a library and a really good one. And there is also endless provocation and endless comfort, like friendship, no matter where or how the friends are placed.

I can choose as I wish and never come to the end of it. It is a pity that I am not earning a qualification or gathering a thesis with my reading but I am not. This seems gloriously wrong and terribly wasteful.

It is a diabolical experience to meet a thousand books at once and only be able to choose a few.

I chose fourteen senseless volumes for absurd and important reasons and these are those:

Chapters From Some Memoirs by Anne Thackeray Ritchie: she is the daughter of the Thackeray who wrote Vanity Fair. It contains a memory of the day she met Chopin as a child, she writes absurd lovely romances. This book is small, bound with red tape, the boards and pages cut precisely, it had no barcode; had not been borrowed since the application of any barcode,  it had to be carried gently out the back to receive a fresh tattoo.

A Lame Dog’s Diary by S. Macnaughtan, another palm sized very old volume, bright red and no barcode. Why is it there? Who has read it?

From the Porch by Lady Ritchie – this is Lady Thackeray again; in green and gold, rough cut pages, dusty, humble.

The Honey Flow by Kylie Tennant because the first line is this: Chapter one: Every time my memory opens its mouth it dribbles roads.

Dawn Powell Novels 1930 – 1942, dressed in green and black, The Library of America, heavy, fine paper like white silk, dense and divine, a thousand pages sumptuous. And the first novel (Dance Night) begins like this:

What Morrie heard above the Lamptown night noises was a woman’s high voice rocking on mandolin notes far, far away. This was like no other music Morry had ever known, it was a song someone else remembered, perhaps his mother, when he was only a sensation in her blood….

A Long Time Dying by Olga Masters – because of the way she describes Australia outside of the front door.

My Butterfly and Other Tales of New Japan by Hal Porter – I have been advised not to miss out on Hal Porter.

The Stolen Soprano by Compton Mackenzie- this is because in The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett,  the Queen was reading Compton Mackenzie and I always wanted to, too.

The Story of a Non- Marrying Man and Other Stories by Doris Lessing – this book is brown and gold and it was on the wrong shelf, it did not care if it was chosen or not. So I chose it.

Southerly – Volume 68, Number 2, 2008 Little Disturbances, because it has short fiction and poetry by Australian writers unknown to me, and it has Indigo in Absentia by Kirstyn McDermott which I  do know and need to read again and again etc.

Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon – because it is blue and silver and massive and is the lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley

The Power of Delight: a Lifetime in Literature by John Bayley, which may be dull but maybe not. Dark blue, and huge, it looked so new and wistful, anxious to be read.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller because I have never heard of it or her.

The Journal to Stella by Jonathon Swift although I am not so fond of him. But I want to know what he wrote in his letters to Stella.

And then I went home to read.

 

Photography by Joshua Hibbert

 

 

 

 

 

I think that the only way to go on is to see if you can…

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Mrs Elman said that her hippeastrums are being frosted each morning and that she needed to give the trees a damn drink whether she wanted to or not and there was no point in avoiding it. She also said that the Chinese are a cunning race after what she saw on television last night.

She has come in to the shop to fetch some more reading – thrillers are her choice for the winter. She is admiring the sun through the window, noting its warmth after the cold that iced her hippeastrums this morning. She remembers that a friend of hers is standing guarantor for a family real estate purchase, she tells me that this is not a thing that SHE would do as it’s the right way to end up with nothing. She advised her own daughters of a better way.

“ …told my girls to share up and square up what’s mine after I’m gone and if there’s nothing left you can take the begging bowl around to have me buried.”

Outside the sun is gone and it is chilly again. She stands still just thinking peaceably.

She loves to read Jo Nesbo and David Baldacci, she and her husband used to read them together. She is tall, she stands with folded hands and a strong umbrella and she looks out of the door at the tangle in the street: cyclists, walkers, a stamping horse float, cold cloud….

I am reading Night and Day by Virginia Woolf and she looks at the cover. But she is not interested in Virginia Woolf… one of those silly, clever people, wasn’t she…

She suddenly says: young people want everything at once don’t they…I only ever had lino…no carpets of course…and you never saw us looking for leather. Nothing was ever easy… I think that the only way to go on is to see if you can.

And then she left.

Photography by Pavan Trikutam