“I ransack public libraries and find them full of sunk treasure.”

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Virginia Woolf wrote this thought about sunk treasure in one of her diaries. I still get requests for Virginia Woolf at the shop. Usually by students. Once a very young reader piled up everything in classics with To the Lighthouse on the top. She had not read Virginia Woolf (yet). She also had Dracula, Frankenstein, Ethan Frome, Sweet Thursday, Treasure Island, The Chrysalids and The Silmarillion. Then her mum came in and said it was too many to carry. She had to put at least half back, which she slowly did, but she kept the Virginia Woolf. I hope she enjoys it.

 

Virginia Woolf

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“So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea.”

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

How astonishing, when the lights of health go down…

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There is rain coming in the shop door; at last, rain for our winter. It’s cold, but at least it is there.

Yvonne called out exuberantly from outside: ‘keep warm’. She indicated her little dog Marco; he had two coats on.

Robert is excited because two more of his Art and Imagination series have arrived, and these will keep his mind off Telstra. He said that Telstra do not care about him, an old man, a pensioner, and they would cut him off from the world. Then he admitted that to be cut off from the world is exactly what he wants, because then he can get on with the book he is writing. Then he said that nobody can afford electricity in this country anyway.

I told him about Virginia Woolf because I want to tell someone about her.

He agrees that she was a pioneer and a stand-alone.

Dion is here and observes that everyone is feeling the cold, which doesn’t help. He has been sick for most of his life. And he says he is going to give up smoking again. Robert said that nobody is going to take his smokes away, and then they both leave, back to their tricky lives.

A woman brings some books to the shop, but I am unable to take any more. Her parents have both died of cancer and she must clear their library. She goes back outside and sits in her car for a long time. I feel bad.

A young visitor is examining Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps, and he looks at me and asks, ‘How do they draw these maps…?’ There is a dispute on the corner outside the shop again. Motorists cannot agree on the courtesies of the intersection, and there are voices, horns. The young visitor replaces the map book and leaves to view the argument.

There is a small boy looking through the door at the rain.

There are two tradesmen out on the footpath eating from paper bags, and they are examining the sky and making predictions. They say that it won’t last.

Alex tells me that her Tupperware party was not so good because nobody came. She buys a copy of The Mandarins by Simone De Beauvoir.

A young man asked for Inside the Spaceships by George Adamski. He said it is a true account of an abduction by aliens, and that he asks in every bookshop for a copy. But I don’t have one.

Another reader asks for Patrick Suskind’s Perfume.

John brings me a copy of Inferno by Dan Brown to read. He is struggling to walk now.

 

 

 

Photography by Ray Hennessy

“Consider how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul…”

Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill

Pressed against the sky…

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I am asked for Nan Witcomb’s The Thoughts of Nanushka, Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond Feist and Pony Pals, numbers 9 and 10.

In the front of Gould’s Book of Fish there is a quotation: My mother is a fish. William Faulkner. This book, by Richard Flanagan, sits next to me. On a day where there are hardly any visitors to the shop, I read and read it and feel busy.

Outside the window, a tiny girl admired the wooden cat. She tapped on the glass, and pressed her nose on the cold glass against the nose of the cat. She said hello Mrs Cat and her mother says: come along, come along.

An old man, outside the shop, turns when his wife asks him if he would like to visit the book shop. He says: but I haven’t bought a book in 40 years.

Inside, a brother and sister are kneeling over the Goosebumps. They began to argue over which of them is taller. Their mother is in the Wordsworth Classics; she is not interested in intervening as she has Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.

Everyone is coughing today.

A couple look intently through the historicals for a long time, pointing to and discussing the titles, gently tapping the spines.

A man said that he was introduced to Emile Zola during his teens and has been hooked ever since. He said the translations from the seventies are the best but it is unusual to find them anywhere. Then his wife said that they have too many books at home.

I was advised to read Clive James. I was intensely interested in a story someone tells me of  how Ezra Pound wrote a long poem and then distilled it down to just three lines.

A lady said sadly that the council have lopped her trees after the recent windstorms. They have done it so incorrectly that she fears they will die. She buys West With the Night by Beryl Markham.

I am asked how to get the census booklet in paper form and advised that the government has not thought this census thing out properly.

A man tells me that he is planning to read all of Proust, sometime in the next hundred years. He said there is something in one of those volumes about a church or an old building that is pressed against the sky. He would do anything to find those words again but cannot remember where they were.

I am back with Gould’s Book of Fish which is a novel in twelve fish, is Van Diemen’s Land, convicts,  our awful history.

Mme Sand: I’ll publish an account of your behaviour.

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Two tradesmen are discussing the political biographies outside the window as they enjoy hot pies from the bakery. (It is freezing outside but they are comfortable and enjoying their break.) They say that there is no need to read these things; you can just see it all on TV, same shit, different day. But then one of them allows that the Julia Gillard book is good as his wife has read it. His friend quickly agrees.

An older man tells me his is very interested in Pat Barker and that he would like to see book shops continue.

I watched a concerned mother follow her adult daughter around the shop murmuring that there is a better edition of that book…and that book…and that book…she comes over to tell me that her daughter and granddaughter are mad for books and that she is too. The daughter certainly looks mad.

Patrick White was furious a lot too. I know because I am reading Flaws in the Glass and I have it here next to me and The Shorter Pepys.

Patrick White’s furious face. I admire it very much as I do all of his books but I don’t think I have any useful scholarly reasons.  But this may in itself be useful as it leaves me more time to read and drink champagne.

A small girl says to her father who is reading  Asterix and the Banquet: what do you mean that this is funny. She asks him three times and he says: wait until you grow up.

An old lady tells her grandson that he does not know what it is to get old. He asks her: but what about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and she says: let’s just sit for a while. He reminds her that it is important because his teacher is reading it to the class and she is reading it too slow. He says: hey Grandma, what book will you get then? And she tells him that she likes a nice love story or Virginia Woolf. When she was young she always read Virginia Woolf……her grandson tells her that he cannot see any wolf books.

I am asked why Nineteen Eighty Four is still so significant.

A young man, who looks like a Viking, tells me that Game of Thrones was actually based on two wars: the Hundred Year’s War AND The Wars of the Roses. People tend to think that it was only the Wars of the Roses. Do you have China Miéville? Then he tells me that he’s been waiting for Tamora Pierce to put out another book and that he’s been waiting for ten years now. He looked at his watch to demonstrate himself waiting. Then he asks for The Shepherd’s Crown (Terry Pratchett) but I don’t have it. He says that I should have has many Terry Pratchetts as possible as these books are more significant than people realise.

An older man bought One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and rode off on his motorbike with the book shoved down the front of his leather jacket.

I have some books to sort and shelve. I am keeping Pages from the Goncourt Journals (Edmond and Jules Goncourt) for myself. This is because I admired the cover and opened the book and read an entry, a reference to George Sand. I know nothing about her but I do know that I must read this book.

End of January 1852

Argument between Mme Sand and Clesinger:

Mme Sand: I’ll publish an account of your behaviour.

Clesinger: Then I’ll do a carving of your backside. And everybody’ll recognise it.

Robert comes by to pick up more volumes in his Myths and Legends Series and I show him the Goncourt Journals. He tells me that he loves the French. He said he has had three cups of good coffee and his brain is going mad…the best time to read. I said “Well, good luck with the Myths of the Middle Ages….” and he said that the election campaigns are  keeping us all stuck in the middle ages anyway.