In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves…. Rumi


Sometimes the noise of silence is unbearable. There is nothing about it that I like. When there are no customers in my bookshop, it means that it is silent. Then I wonder if the shop is doing well.

It does not worry Leon, he comes in and tells me not to worry about it because at least the weather is good. He tells me he is having another go at Twilight, the best book about vampires there is.

I ask him why everyone is just walking past the shop today, and he says it is because they don’t want to come in.

Then he asks me what I am reading, and I show him: Marcovaldo, by Italo Calvino, and he says it looked pretty boring. Leon always makes me laugh.  Then I stop worrying and planning, and the pattern improves.

A lady, who has just come in tells me that she always wished that she read books. The nuns did teach her to read but…….and she stood for a long time just thinking about this.

Leon asks me later if I thought the nuns had been cruel to that lady. I said I didn’t know, and he asked if she taught herself to read like he had to, and even though he still couldn’t read very well it didn’t stop him from having a go at the vampires. He just let the words make sense to him if they wanted to.

But it is hard to sit in silence and worry about the shop.

A young girl, perhaps 13, was considering a book for her birthday and could not choose between The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll (an enormous and very heavy edition in raspberry pink leather and with lemon and liquorice endpapers,) or a green and silver leather edition of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

I was curious about her dilemma; she picked the Faulkner. I asked her why, and she said that she didn’t know why, she just liked the book. But she also liked the gold on the pages, and she likes books that don’t bend. She said that she just knew she would like this book. These things just come to her. In the silence?

A customer has returned to lend me their copy of The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. He told me that I will love it and to take my time with it. It occurs to me that to be lent a beloved book is to be a given a renewed lease on enjoyment ( if I allow it to) and is also no small risk to the lender.

Outside there is an argument between a Telstra van and a milk truck who both want the same car park. Telstra is on the phone and I hope he can’t get a signal.

A lovely couple that visit every week tell me to keep up the good work.

I am asked for The Naming of Names by Anna Pavord, and Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley. Then later, Alistair Cooke’s America, and anything by Dorothy Parker.

I am informed twice that people are tired of books now and just want to read from their phones. I’m not sure if this is true.

In the afternoon quiet I consider The Stone Diaries. In the silence (that means no customers) the books, the writing, the meaning of the books, everything is richer and more illuminated. Improved patterns.

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”

Lawrence Durrell, Justine

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there…


Ingrida Barks 2

Is it possible to read too much? Is it likely that a state of over- read will blunt our ability to live skilfully outside the pages of what we love?

The shop is busy with conversations and requests and comments about the changing weather. But I am ambushed by my own reading and I can’t attend today.

(‘Do you have The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald, it better be better than his last book!”)

(Why don’t you put a coffee machine in here?)

“Owls hoot in B flat, cuckoos in D, but the water ousel sings in the voice of the stream. She builds her nest back of the waterfalls so the water is a lullaby to the little ones. Must be where they learn it.”

 Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Canary

What does it mean?


(I’ll just take a quick gander at the Westerns if you don’t mind)

(I won’t take Fat, Forty and Fired to read after all as it’s too close to home.)

“This is the seashore. Neither land nor sea. It’s a place that does not exist.”

Ocean Sea,  Alessandro Baricco

What does it mean?


(‘Well, about this weather, I say no thanks to it!’)

(I’m after Lillian Jackson Braun, the best books I have ever read. I’m getting myself a birthday present although my birthday is not for another 6 months!)

(Are you buying books at the moment?)

“Stars open among the lilies.

Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens?

This is the silence of astounded souls.”

Sylvia Plath, Crossing the Water

What does it mean?


(How are you, how are things? I’m in the middle of putting in a seriously sneaky verandah so can’t stop for long. Have a good one.’)

(Do you have any Wilbur Smith?)

(Do you have Judy Nunn?)

(Do you have books on how to play cricket?)

(Do you have Simon Winchester?)

Inhale and hold the evening in in your lungs.”  Sebastian Faulks


(Are you buying books?)

(Any Spike Milligan?)

(There’s a queue at the bakery!)

Owls hoot in B flat…

This is the seashore, neither land nor sea…

Are you not blinded…

Inhale and hold the evening…


(I can’t choose between these three books. Which would you recommend?)

(I’m so interested in True Crime.)

(Let me tell you about the schools near here..)

Then it is quiet and I am aware that despite being busy, I have sold only a few books. I am uncomfortable that I am not successful. Surely I should be more successful at least than this time last year. Maybe I should have firmer future business goals.

“There is no past or future. Using tenses to divide time is like making chalk marks on water.”   Janet Frame


A visitor today commended me for persisting against all odds, that I was brave and she admired my energy.

My future here is not secure.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing

and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about.”



Photography by Ingrida Barks