I wrote this just before Christmas in 2015. The shop had started to become something, and I was beginning to fit it. Again, I realise (now) that it was the regulars that made it happen, and that a small town is the best place to be.
“The structure of each day in the bookshop has become quite nice.
Each day forms, bulges out toward the afternoon, trims itself, and tries to return to normal by closing time.
Each day the flow of information is generous.
Each morning seems to be about Henry James.
At closing time, I am anxious to get home and keep going with Henry James. I am slow. Leon told me that I am slow with books, it is true. But I am justified – The Spoils of Poynton is a thicket. I have to go slowly.
Young families wash in on a tide of enthusiasm and spare time because the school holidays have begun, and it is summer. And there is a new Star Wars film. When they leave, the door is covered in fingerprints, and there will be an empty juice bottle amongst the Geronimo Stiltons.
‘Where’s that book The Cross Sections of the Man of War? Is it still here? Last week it was.’
‘Nanna is getting us books and we can pick our own. This one is about the war, but it’s book two, so do you have books one and three? I’m getting it anyway.’
‘Do you have William Gaddis? I’ve been looking for The Recognitions all my life. It’s up there with Gravity’s Rainbow and books like that.’
In my spare minute I have another go at Henry James. Not many people have ever asked for his books.
Karl came in with his book list and told me that his eyes gave way earlier in the year, which was disappointing as he has always been one for the written word. But now he is fine and ready to roll.
John complained that every time he went to the bakery his doctor would go pass the window and see what he was eating and then give him a rocket because of his health – his cholesterol is way too high. ‘Small town bullshit that’s what it is. You can’t even take a piss without somebody telling everyone at Woolworths about it. I’m enjoying that Dick Francis though, the only one of those crime mugs that can actually write.’
I am lucky to receive a consistent commentary on the weather. This is a topic with a satisfying variety of expressions available to share it.
‘How’s this heat? Keeping you busy?’
‘Cool in here.’
‘This heat is ridiculous!’
‘Good weather for reading, that’s what I say.’
‘Foul weather. And here I am out in it.’
‘Damn strange weather!’
‘Damn fine weather!’
‘This weather takes the cake.’
‘Don’t know how Christmas will go with weather like this.’
‘Heat’s bad but nothing like in the sixties.’
A lady told me that Gould’s Book of Fish has her flabbergasted.
All day I am offered suggestions for the best things to read. I free fall amongst the suggestions.”
Photography by Alexandre Petrotto