Sometimes the noise of silence is unbearable. There is nothing about it that I like. When there are no customers, it means that it is silent. Then I wonder if the shop is doing well.
It does not worry Leon, he tells me not to worry about it because at least the weather is good. He tells me he is having another go at Twilight, the best book about vampires there is.
I ask him why everyone is just walking past today, and he says it is because they don’t want to come in.
Then he asks me what I am reading, and I show him: Marcovaldo, by Italo Calvino, and he says it looked pretty boring.
A lady, who has just come in tells me that she always wished that she read books. The nuns did teach her to read but…….and she stood for a long time just thinking.
Leon asks me later if I thought the nuns had been cruel to her. I said I didn’t know, and he says that she ought to teach herself to read like he had to, and even though he actually couldn’t read very well it didn’t stop him from having a go at the vampires. He just let the words make sense to him if they wanted to.
But it is hard to sit in silence.
A young girl, perhaps 13, was considering a book for her birthday and could not choose between The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll (an enormous and very heavy edition in raspberry pink leather and with lemon and liquorice endpapers,) or a green and silver leather edition of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.
I was curious about her dilemma; she picked the Faulkner. I asked her why, and she said that she didn’t know why, she just liked the book. But she also liked the gold on the pages, and she likes books that don’t bend. She said that she just knew she would like this book. These things just come to her. In the silence?
A customer has returned to lend me their copy of The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. He told me that I will love it and to take my time with it. It occurs to me that to be lent a beloved book is to be a given a renewed lease on enjoyment ( if I allow it to) and is also no small risk to the lender.
Outside there is an argument between a Telstra van and a milk truck who both want the same car park. Telstra is on his phone and I hope he can’t get a signal.
A lovely couple that visit every week tell me to keep up the good work.
I am asked for The Naming of Names by Anna Pavord, and Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley. Then later, Alistair Cooke’s America, and anything by Dorothy Parker.
I am informed twice that people are tired of books now and just want to read from their phones. I’m not sure this is right.
In the afternoon quiet I consider The Stone Diaries. In the silence (that means no customers) the books, the writing, the meaning of the books, everything is richer and more illuminated. Improved patterns.
“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”
Lawrence Durrell, Justine