On the jetty, Edithburgh, at dusk

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I’m just watching. It’s all I want to do right now.

The jetty is warm.

The fisher people are patient, they move in and out of all the rooms of the evening. They are on the jetty looking for squid. One man handles his rod as if it is a pencil. He only needs one hand, light, delicate. He writes on the water. He leans over, frowning, as if looking for mistakes.

There is a child who is running in circles with a green bucket. The father says, ‘Here, bring it back.’ The mother continues to hold the line, staring downwards. She is wearing raspberry coloured sports shoes. She is blown about, swaying, and looking downwards, into the water, looking for signs in the green, green water, wondering how to improve things.

One man sits in a chair. He wears shorts, a singlet and rubber boots. He says, ‘Away then, away then, come on you.’  The next man is motionless.

The child is chasing seagulls. They hop backwards, an inch, another inch. She is so fast; they must hop back…two inches this time, hop, hop, and then they tilt their heads. She stretches and dips. Maybe she will put a seagull in her bucket. But she can’t, her father is calling and calling, ‘Here…. where’s me bucket…?’

The jetty is warm.

My family land a squid and it releases its life, in ink. Heads turn. Heads nod.

They are going for green tonight. They only want the green jigs. The information is passed on.

The sun settles, depressed, smoky. It can’t get clean. The eyes of the squid are wet emeralds, soft and gone. More fisher people pass us, heading for a place on the jetty, finding it, a precise place, a warm spot that works for them. They stop to prepare fishing rods, put down a plastic bucket and kneel to the sun.

My family land another squid; it releases another finale, across the jetty, ink, fire, a catastrophe, whatever. The running child with the green bucket pauses, glances across the stain,  reads it, moves on, calls back, ‘Got it’. She runs and leaps, entirely alive.

I am only watching.

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The Bookshelves

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Many customers describe their bookshelves as unfinished. Everyone tells the story with pride. One lady told me that all her shelves were double stacked. She said this with glee and gluttony, looking at me carefully, looking for disapproval. I said that mine were triple stacked and she screamed with happiness. Her husband looked at her and said it was time to go.
Michael said that he had books in Spanish, the most beautiful language.
One man said all his low shelves were broken. He has just wedged them up with beer bottles and old westerns, does the job.
Everyone says they should not get any more books but they do anyway.
All children examine a book from the outside in.
Young people who are friends and who come in pairs or triples stand in tight groups and say oh my god over every book that is good. They will do this for ages.
Old people who say that young people don’t read anymore are wrong.
Louis always says to me: what’s good at the moment? This means any book about Mahatma Gandhi or 20th century art. He has been given a new bookshelf and wants to fill it even though he already has more books than he can read in his lifetime.
One lady said that her husband threw all her books out when he left so now she is out to get another library together again. She said she is pretty happy right now.
One lady bought her son a stack of books for Christmas but then she kept them all for herself.
Young men say: sweet or brilliant or that’s really keen. One young man said that Freud is a radical and a sweet gone read. One boy said that the only one is Tolkien.
One lady said that she would not read Mark Twain.
One man needed a copy of the same book for his three adult children because otherwise they would fight. He said they were all in their forties.
Peggy is really sick and is going to read all her Game of Thrones as quickly as possible and this made me feel really sad.

The Old Man Who Said He Had Memory Problems

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Yesterday an old man came into the shop and said he had memory problems. He was very apologetic. He said he loved to read and had no trouble with that, he could remember just about everything he had read. And they were all beautiful memories.

He had forgotten his wallet and he went back outside and stood just outside the door and shook his hands gently from side to side and waited. Sometimes he glanced back at the books in the windows and he smiled at me, he seemed sad as if he was causing me trouble, which he wasn’t. He nodded kindly at all the passers-by.

There is an autobiography of Mark Twain on the front table and he looked at that through the window for a long time. Then his wife returned with his wallet and they both stood there, still outside and I thought they were talking about Mark Twain because the old man tapped on the glass and indicated the book and then they both laughed and nodded together. They stood there undecided for a while, they didn’t come back in, instead they headed toward the bakery and they looked pretty happy!

Sadness on Goolwa beach last night

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On Goolwa beach the evening was in waves. Down the twelve steps we went and across the fine, clean sand that is still releasing generously the day’s heat and the ocean is kind and my family are in it and to one side the beach is cool slate and to the other a dazzling promotion of silver and lemon, olive and gold, all in waves.
The beach breathes in waves. There is no wind, there is one lone fisherman, standing, gazing out into his life, there is a family running in circles, running in spirals, the sand coughing around their feet, it is so quiet I can hear them urging fair play of the rules, Dylan!
There are three seagulls, sitting on the wind even though there is no wind. I wonder what they are waiting for.
There is no space between the sea and the sky.
There is no space between the sea and the sand.
The light moderates all the colours and they weave together, except for the tiles of orange on the horizon, everything else is stitched together, like fair play, like gladness and grief, unable to get at one without the interference of the other and everything in waves.
The tide moves in pursuit and retreat, around and past me, unmoved by me.
The fisherman is wading out into deeper water, my family are finishing, the hilarious family are making for their car, the last child trailing a blue towel across the blue evening and being told to hurry, and then we too, going home.

What will we be like when we claim all our own resources….

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Perhaps he could no longer walk calmly and safely on a level floor because he mistook it for a rope. Hermann Hesse, Klein and Wagner

Rowena told me that I should keep doing this. Keep working in a bookshop. That we should do what makes us happy when we can. And that some people will do what makes them unhappy because that actually keeps them happy. She bought a copy of The Hunger Games.

John stopped me at the bakery to show me his mountain bike, all packed and prepared for his trip to Tasmania where he is hoping for mild weather. Since he retired he rides everywhere and he can’t wait for August when he will leave and tour alone around the cold Tasmanian roads with his History of Abraham Lincoln for company.

I have not seen Leon for ages,  not since he told me that his migraines were getting worse and worse but to have the second volume of Twilight ready for him anyway.

Robert said that nobody (certainly not the government) will thank him for all the research and writing that he is doing until long after he is dead. But he does not care because there is power in death.

Monique told me that she will be looking for a new series to read very soon and hopefully as good as Cat Warriors.

A lady told her husband to shut the door and not let in the cold but he couldn’t close it because she was in the way. She asked him if he couldn’t just be careful for once in his life. But he is looking at the Ian Flemings and does not answer. She tells him to go in the other room. But he is laughing out loud at the Ian Flemings because “these books were a lot of fun!”

I had said to Robert, imagine if we all thought that we were actually ok, and didn’t need to keep tiredly striving for whatever it was. He said nobody will ever claim all of their own resources as being enough because our culture tells us to do otherwise. Like Apple and Ikea. Then he said he needed a coffee.

But I think it’s true that reading allows us to relent and relax on our careful hold on our lives. When people tell me about something they have read, they let go of everything and concentrate only on that one thing they are remembering: The Tower or the Smoke Catcher or the Chinese Riots of Lambing Flat.

And then our cramped clockwork can stretch and release and light out for a solo run without us.

I felt inspired and told a lady who was looking through the Colin Thieles that it is nice to see children reading the South Australian writers. But she put the books down and said that she might get her grandson some lollies instead and did I know if that old lolly shop was still in High Street.

I am asked for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and Bully for Brontosaurus, for the location of the art gallery and advised to read The Fall of the House of Wilde. I was reminded that tomorrow would be 22 degrees, (practically summer) and that there was a horse float parked in the bus zone. I showed my Herman Hesse, some new reading for me, to a customer but he said he does not read the Germans.

My friend, who is 84, sent me a bag of books and the news that her daughter had died on Sunday. My friend is a braveheart. She has always followed her own self to her own self and not bothered to strive after anything that outshines her own remarkable life, because so far nothing has. She has read everything, favouring bloodthirsty thrillers above all else. Along with her devastating news, she sent me a stack of bloodthirsty thrillers.

You carried everything that mattered inside yourself….to live with yourself in affection and trust. Then you could do anything. Then you could not only walk a tightrope but fly. Herman Hesse, Klein and Wagner

Photography by Rubee Hood

“Yes, indeed!”

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A child found a library card in the back of a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and said: What’s this? His grandma looked at the card for a long time.

It is nearly noon and a man told me that his north England accent caused him a lot of problems. Then he asked me if I knew George Orwell’s real name. He asked it twice so that I would not have trouble with his accent. He did not come to buy a book, just to take the air as he was a guest at his brother’s house and needed to get out of the place. I said that I understood the situation.

Two adult brothers returned three times, troubled over a book of trains in the children’s section. Eventually they purchased a DK Atlas and left, still troubled. But I was on the phone to Robert who had rung to see if his Tantric Yoga has arrived (it hasn’t) so I ask him might he let Mick  know that his Penguin History of Greece is here. Robert says that he always battles mental health in the winter and it is only books that get him through.

I understand because I am reading more of Dorothy Parker and I am still impressed that she wrote of her own darkness with no apology. It makes me think of that my own small clear stream of sadness and how I can keep it flowing and flushing.

A lady spends a long time looking at the cat books until her husband asked her anxiously to come along now. But she said that there was a book called Cats of Cornwall there and she must look at it more.

I was advised that the weather was lovely apart from the wind and the cold. I was told that the sky could use some more light.

One man was delighted with A Home Handyman by Readers Digest but he didn’t buy it as he thought his wife would be at him even more if he did. While he was telling me this, another man looked through the window and said:  here comes the train, full of damned tourists as usual.

A lady whispered to me that Anna Funder’s All That I Am was a great book.

I was asked for Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon and this customer said that the most important part of a shop is the windows and did I know that Belloc in The Path to Rome said that he worshipped windows. I said that I actually did know that and that he wrote about tunnels too, and light.

Meanwhile the rain keeps drumming the asphalt and visitors try to force the door shut as quickly as possible. Andrew was disappointed that his Knight of the Seven Kingdoms had not arrived. A man sung a Frank Sinatra song as he browsed until his wife told him to stop it.

Some new visitors bought some old and very attractive travelogues; he was planning to actually read them and not shelve them for decorative purposes and I was impressed. He told me a long story about Sir Ernest Shackleton, starting at chapter one which was titled Into the Weddell Sea and then he asked me if I read the vintage travel volumes and I said I looked for travel books written by women. He nodded politely but Jo, his wife,  came forward and said “yes indeed.” She bought a copy of Daisy Bates in the Desert.

I was advised to read Ray Bradbury, Jack Kerouac and to try David Malouf. I promised to see to it but am still tangled up with Dorothy Parker and Samuel Pepys and intend to be for some time yet.

 

 

 

How valuable…

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With lightning

One is not enlightened

How valuable.

 Basho, The Complete Haiku

I am reminded each morning that now it is cold. I have lit up a string of red lights around A. S. Byatt and Virginia Woolf to remind me of warmth and brave living. People look at the lights across these books and say: this looks so warm with the red lights there. I have added Kate Grenville and also John Kennedy Toole, who wrote A Confederacy of Dunces and then died before it was published and before he knew how important he was.

My fist visitor today, after commenting on the beginning of winter asked for Of Mice and Men. She had always wanted to read John Steinbeck and also thought that my coloured lights were nice, just the thing for a dark day.

A young browser looked at The Imitation of Christ and murmured:”…well, maybe not today…”

Robert is going to challenge an unfair Centrelink request and he does not care if it takes the rest of his life, so long as he still has time to read.

One customer told his friend that it was a bloody good day and his friend answered that this was true and that she was full of water. He said that slowly the ground will become good with it.

A lady told me that she wanted to read The Diary of Samuel Pepys, some kind of reader’s version. I said that even that is just over a thousand pages. She decided she was up for it. Then she told me that when she was a librarian, the woman at the next desk did absolutely nothing and yet still managed to look busy. She said that this woman kept it up for about 10 years – and this is only a little longer than Pepys kept up his diaries!

In The Collected Dorothy Parker I read this: “They sicken of the calm who know the storm.”  Dorothy Parker was an American author, poet and critic who wrote across the early 1900s. She was a brilliant writer and she was very funny and very sad. This made it agonising for her to sit still – but clearly she knew this because she said it: “They sicken of the calm who know the storm.” And she wrote with unfailing honesty her stories and poetry and thoughts. This means that we can read them and then honestly claim our own stories and pain, too.

Although we are encouraged not to, I think that it can be very useful to sit still and risk a seeming achievement of nothing. This could make the activity of reading a challenging one. Perhaps this is why many people bring in printed reading lists…so show some progress.

A grandparent expressed her concern for her grandsons that could not sit still. She asked for some picture books about farm animals: she was going to begin reading to them and introduce a new kind of activity.

Reading is slow and accumulative.

I listened to a reader tell me many details about Tom Keneally’s Commonwealth of Thieves and I was convinced to try Mary called Magdalene by Margaret George.

“So, you’re the man who can’t spell ‘fuck.'”

 Dorothy Parker to Norman Mailer after publishers had convinced Mailer to replace the word with a euphemism, ‘fug,’ in his 1948 book, “The Naked and the Dead.”

Photography by Martin Dorsch