Winter and reading and a glass of wine

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Under the door of the shop there is a gap, and a thin straw of cold enters quietly, all day long. I have fingerless gloves. Excellent for typing. For looking up any possible gossip about Virginia Woolf that I may have missed. Winter is always bright with possibility because to stay in is acceptable.

One couple came in this afternoon and said, it’s warm in this little place.

He looked like Terry Pratchett, sort of intensely occupied. She looked like Vita Sackville-West, so was probably looking for Virginia Woolf.

They stayed in the room furthest from the warmth for ages, but didn’t seem to notice it. They had, each, a mighty selection when they finally came to the counter and noticed me. I said wisely, ah, the winter reading….

He straightened up in surprise, well, yes of course. He had three Terry Pratchett books.

I said, with a glass of wine….

He straightened up again, this time with joy, well yes of course. We have the place for it at our house, an old place, space for books. The shelves are all bending. Her stuff. He looked at her with an expression of acute happiness.

She presented her Margaret Atwoods and nodded, nursing that private power that comes with Margaret Atwood and husbands like him, and said, it’s winter, time to stay in.

They bobbed back out into the weather, serene, parting the winter into two fields with their own bright path right through the centre of it.

 

Old House in Stepney, Adelaide (photography by me)

 

 

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale

 

Screenshot_2017-09-01-20-57-15.pngI have finished reading it.

I read it whenever I could find a minute, not stopping even once. I read it at the shop and was asked what I am reading. Visitors said: oh yes, that book. Or they said: what’s it about? Or they have heard of it, know of it, mean to read it, want to get a copy, know someone who has read it, have seen the television series, don’t want to read it, they do not like books about oppressive and brutal regimes etc, etc.

And it is a brutal regime, a totalitarian society called Gilead, set a part of the old United States and one that treats women as property. No nice things happen. I was advised by one customer that everyone should read this. It was first published in 1985 and I read that Margaret Atwood is as deeply concerned with oppressive regimes as she is with the widely held attitude that they won’t happen here. And though it was written a while ago and is about a time far into the future, it is about each one of us, about the small and normal things we scratch around doing to live our lives and would keep on doing if we were to enter a new life that we could not survive.   I was asked if it had a happy ending but I think that Margaret Atwood is too sublime a writer to need the happy endings. Life is rarely about these. It does seem so very important to read these books.

I have no copies of this book in my shop and I cannot part with mine.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Edinburgh International Book Festival

I am about to read The Handmaid’s Tale. It is written by Margaret Atwood and I have never read it before, I have been told it is confronting. A lady also told me this morning that it is disturbing and she said by God, the Canadians have some good writers!

It is endlessly interesting to be on the unread side of a book. And to consider it from its smooth side.

Another lady told me that everybody should read it. I said that I had only read The Blind Assassin so far and she said urgently that this isn’t enough, that I must read more, that we should all be reading more Margaret Atwood.

Bill saw my book and said he had never heard of her. He said that Bryce Courtenay was good enough for him. Robert was tremendously impressed when I described the book to him. He said he should read it but is very committed to the ancient Greeks right now.

I heard that there is a TV series of The Handmaid’s Tale and that it is brilliant, but I am advised to always read the book first. Leanne said she might give it a go. She said: well done for trying the new stuff!

Most books are new to me because I am not a fast reader and the more I read the slower I go. Every good book insists on a new way of regarding basically everything. I am expecting The Handmaid’s Tale to be good because The Blind Assassin, which I read years ago has still never left me alone.