There is a young man who visits here, I don’t know his name. He reads science fiction. He always tells me about the last book he read and how awesome it was and how he can’t believe how good it was and he shakes his head because it is impossible to put into adequacy, the jump from here to Isaac Asimov, to Foundation and everything he has downloaded from that book. Today he went past the window but he didn’t come in. He was eating an icecream and singing out loud…he was singing about something that might keep forever…the same words, over and over as he went by and he was carrying a box of wheatbix on his head and a newspaper on top of that and he was eating the icecream forever. At the kerb, some people were standing by their car and they watched him in complete silence all the way up the footpath and nobody said anything.
Marble sculpture by Anny Wang
On Thursday, a family visited the shop on their way home to Sydney. They said they had no room in their car for more books. They look very happy. They are mum, dad – they had difficulty walking and their daughter, one of their daughters, that is, and she has difficulties with having too many books. They are so happy together. The mother and daughter clutched each other every time they discovered another book. The mother is reading China Mieville. I said: here, I’ll show you a picture of China Mieville. The mother look hard at this science fiction writer and said – well I definitely want to read him then, don’t I, I do like all things difficult. Her daughter colluded: that’s true, she does.
Then they had to search through bags and pockets for the money.
They joined hands briefly, anxiously searching.
They were all so bright. Their glasses were imperial purple and emerald green. They had everything bright. The man joined them from another room and they said ecstatically: look father’s joining in. Good on you Leon. They commanded him to find his wallet. He looked at me and his face was alive with happiness. He said: look at me saddled with this for a family.
He was carrying Arthur Upfield and Peter O’Donnell and walking carefully, being saddled with such a family and everything.
I could buy more
Couldn’t we all.
I’m having a last go.
Did you find the money?
And they all continued round again, glowing, satisfied, filling their car that was already too full. Leon wore a cherry red jumper and I wondered who made it for him, probably knitting and reading a book at the same time.
I have made a library. The daughter told me about a library she has made at home now that her adult children are moving out. She said it is glorious.
They pay for their books: China Mieville, Robert Jordan, Lewis Carroll, J. M. Barrie, Arthur Upfield, Peter O’Donnell, Jean Auel and finally a copy of Pinocchio. They pack them in a large bag covered in black and gold and orange triangles and with orange and green handles.
Come on then. They need to urge each other out of the door.
You stop looking.
They held on to each other to get out of the door, Leon carried all the books and off they went, all saddled together.
There is a couple here in the shop and they are very quiet and they are very hesitant and finally they ask me for mystery and crime and other things like that, like Peter Temple or Ngaio Marsh?
They pick two books each and they become hilarious. They tell me they are on holidays and they are going back to Victoria right now. He says he is going to read as he drives, all the way home. She gives a small scream and says there’s no way you are going to read as you drive, you old fool.
He says that he will do that if he wants to. She tells me that he always thinks he can do whatever he wants. When they leave there is a struggle with the door as another couple try to enter at the same time. Everybody exchanges one short, witty comment and the couple leaving step out into the wind and their drive home and the couple entering separate into science fiction and poetry.
He says: there will be nothing new here as usual and she says: maybe about time you tried something new?
He lifts a shoulder to block her out but she is kneeling in poetry and has found Keats and says: well I have already found this…
But he has found nothing and goes back outside to wait.
She stays in poetry. She stays for ages…
Artwork by Lorenzo Mattotti