Goodbye, Merry Christmas…


The school term is not finished and Christmas has not yet quite begun. There is a small dip in between and we are all in it. Except for Robert who is busy quarrelling with the bank because they are trying to make him extinct. There are no lulls or lows in Robert’s life, just a fervent onwards. He came in to say that he does not enjoy Christmas and that he is going to begin reading Chinese History.

An old lady told me a joke she heard in the 1960s. She said it was from The Goon Show. She said this series made her husband very happy indeed. I know her husband, he is the one who bought a series of Spike Milligan biographies because his friend stole his originals and never returned even one of them. He said that friend was an arsehole. But here now, is his wife asking me to find and set aside a book on the Goon Show as a Christmas present for him

Many readers speak with authority: C. J. Box has a flowing style. Henry Lawson is so colonial. Simone De Beauvoir is essential. Tirra Lirra By the River is heavily symbolic. Richard Flanagan is masterful. Di Morrissey is non-gender specific.

Sometimes their faces have a desperate expression in case they cannot argue effectively on behalf of their book. But they always can. I always wonder: what is it you found in The Good Earth, Pinocchio, The Maltese Falcon, All Quiet on the Western Front? Or in Helen Garner, Will Self, Nino Culotta or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I always wonder what they found and why they did.

When I read Heidi, very young, I corrected my impression of bread and cheese eaten together and eaten outside. I do not know why or how this happened but I have always craved bread and cheese together and outside ever since.

When I read The Hobbit, I adjusted my idea of bravery and size. And when I read The Stone Book by Alan Garner and the child climbed to the roof of the church with her father, I could smell the hot stones and this made me very happy. But I don’t know why.

I was asked for the Implantable Defibrillator Therapy: A Clinical Guide and also for The Count of Monte Cristo.

A man advised me to read John Grisham.

Visitors are anxious to begin their Christmas Shopping but end up purchasing books for themselves.

Sharon is buying gifts for her children’s school teachers and she sits on the floor and reads out loud. She reads lines from the books and sometimes her voice drops into a new lilt. Then it changes and she sounds familiar to me again. Then again into a curious downward slide, with sounds and drops in sound exotic to me; it is Chinese. She brings some poetry books (Ted Hughes, Robert Burns, John Keats) to the counter and begins to talks to me of the cultural revolution in China in the 1970s. She said it was terrible.

She said; this is China, this is my country… literature was banned during this time, as was music… and children were encouraged to report their own parents and one boy, he did this and never saw his mother again. She said: can you imagine that? We stood silently looking out of the window together at the sunny road and tried to imagine it. I said no, I couldn’t imagine it. She says she must get going, there is so much to do, but she sits back down on the floor and begins reading out loud from her book again.

I listen to the words dip and wilt  and then then suddenly break from sound to sense for me and she is in English again and I am wishing that I could do this. She said to me: We must all read, must know things and we must just read…..then she said: goodbye, merry Christmas.

I am asked for The Good Earth (two copies) and Possum Magic and for details of the Christmas Pageant. A lady phones me for The Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped.

An old man came into the shop and said: I’m back. But I could not remember him. He said: but I love to read Colleen McCullough.

He also said sadly that he has just been to Mannum to visit his friend. His friend is knocking on eighty years (and he himself has already kicked eighty in the backside) but he could not remember where his friend lived and so he came home again.

I found The Thorn Birds and hopefully presented it and he looked at it carefully. He said: but this is the one I have been wanting, how did you do that?

I said that it is just luck.

He said well, well, well!