The young girl who wanted a book for her friend

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This young girl wanted a book for her friend. The friend is an exchange student and unable to go home right now. So a group of students are buying her books, for consolation. The exchange student, who can’t go home, reads and reads.

The young girl had a list of books, written in pencil and folded neatly. She showed me the list. It is mostly the classics.  I read, “William Wordsworth”.

I said, ‘William Wordsworth!’

And she said, ‘Oh yes!’

Love’s Labour’s Lost

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Sometimes people come into the shop and I don’t notice. They just appear, and not through any door that I have. When I look up, there they are. A knot of teenagers, seated on the ground, leaning back, solemn, as though here for a meeting. I can hear the trailing ends of one idea after another.

‘The point he’s making is that….’

‘What people don’t realise….’

‘With my play, I had to…..’

‘Yeah, but that exerts…’

Someone is reading aloud. Everybody listens. The reader stands up. Finishes. Everyone dives forward with an idea….’I’ve got that on Instagram…not the book…it’s on something…’

‘No, no no, pretty much…..not that one…’

‘In The Uncommon Reader…’  Someone narrates the plot of The Uncommon Reader.

‘Listen to this…’

‘I was like…’

‘There’s this really long word in this play…’

More reading out loud.  An argument. A selfie is taken.

‘Oh my God. I’m getting that.’

‘Are you serious?’

‘I love this.’

‘The exhibition was in 1910…’

‘This was published in 1948.’

‘I don’t reckon…’

‘So what books are you grabbing hon…?’

‘I know. I don’t know. But I’m getting this now. I just googled it, I love it.

It was Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost they were reading from, and that they are now buying.

Then they leave, one girl hugging the ‘beautiful book’ and telling the others she can’t go out tonight because she has rehearsal.

 

 

A Tale from The Decameron, 1916, John William Waterhouse

 

 

 

Do you have any books on sharks?

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Three children and their parents. They carry the books around, reading as they walk, reading out loud, spotting something else, kneeling down to see. Wondering and thinking, do we need it, have we got it? We do. We don’t.

Look at this.

Seen it.

Look at this.

I want it.

Three Harry Potters make it to the front. And then a book on sharks that they asked for and stood over, pointing and discussing, and which can’t be left behind. Very good.

Dad comes back, he just ducked out to the 12 Volt Shop (he said), and now has a good look at the selections. Very good.

Then they all muddle out, bumping and swaying, which is how you walk when you read at the same time. (Very good).

Oh, no…

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I watched this reader come into the bookshop and sigh over the books, while at the same time maintain contact with friends outside the window.

There was something on the window table that was enthralling. She bent to read. She held her phone to her ear, whispering the plot to a friend perhaps. What was the book? I couldn’t see.

Her friends were clustered outside the window. They leaned into the window and made significant expressions. She stared into their faces and spoke into her phone. She stretched her face around the agony of the news.

The book, a paperback. She held it open with one elbow and signaled something diabolical though the window. I drifted close by. It was Dangerous Creatures.

There was a desperate exchange of information by phone and face.

The reader raised herself on her toes for emphasis. The watchers drew back in respect. Maybe someone in the book died. Should I offer support?

The reader knelt down to read further, calm and out of view. The watchers fogged the window in alarm. It seemed to me that the entire day paused.

Finally she rose. Replaced the book and fled the shop, one hand clasped over her mouth, keeping the the angst organised. She allowed me a brief glance. Outside the door she raised both arms and was received by fellow readers. I saw their young and tortured hands reach for her as she closed the door.

Readers.

Artwork, Even the Tiger Stopped to Listen to her Tale, by Mary Alayne Thomas

 

 

 

This Weirdy Weather

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Yesterday was hot, and the ducks on the road into Strathalbyn sat too close to the road and refused to move. People came into the shop and said, ‘God, it’s hot!’

Today is cold, rain in the morning and people coming in and saying, ‘My God, this is strange.’

One man said that a second ago, it was summer.

His girlfriend said that she doubted it, and would he pay for her books.

He said, ‘How am I supposed to do that?’ But he paid for the books and looked pleased.

She said, ‘I love this weirdy weather, you can read in it.’

He said, ‘I know.’

She pointed out that he didn’t like reading.

He said, ‘I know, but I might be going to start,’ and he looked around for a book to start with.

She said, ‘I don’t believe you’, and looked pleased with him.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

Paddington

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A little girl opened the door to my shop and wedged her face between the lock and the doorway and stared inside, pressing up and down on her toes. She said, ‘This is my dream. This is like Paddington.’
Her mum, coming up behind her said, ‘Come on, we’re going over the road.’ They crossed the road, hand in hand, the little girl still going up and down on her toes, and talking and gesturing backwards and forwards all the way. She had a knitted scarf tied around her waist and one purple sock and one white one.

Loren and Adam’s kids

reader

Loren and Adam’s kids, with their astonishing names and unconfined attitudes! They love to read. Who knows what place they’ll end up in – Tibet, or Strathalbyn, doesn’t matter, it’s where your face is that counts, up keeping watch over the universe or contemplating the feet of the blue tongue lizard. They love to read. They rise and rise, an aching existence of looking a little bit further and seeing around corners, and never coming to the end of things. Always good when they visit. Always good.

 

This bookshop is crazy

Glueck/ Geahnt hatte er es schon lange

Two young people, a couple, consulted their phones, looked at lists, and asked me to help them find the books they wanted. They wanted Sigmund Freud, Hilary Mantel, and Gone with the Wind. They made a stack with The Penguin History of the World on the bottom and their wild evening party plans on the top.

‘Tonight’, they kept saying to each other.

But they didn’t leave; they kept looking, unable to stop thinking. ‘Man, this place is crazy, we should go, do y’have Jonathan Swift?

Later, at dusty three o’clock, an old man told me that we have to get kids off computers. ‘They don’t read, they don’t want to learn… always doing things they shouldn’t. What about those game stations and drugs? How do you keep your shop going?

He turned around and turned around and found his wife in her bright orange coat reading Bring Up the Bodies, and said, ‘Come on, we’re going home.’

 

Artwork by Gerhard Gluck

How many, maybe twelve

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

It’s not often so many readers visit me at once. But this group came in, swooping, nodding. Young people reading. Oh happy Saturday.

Swaying, hoping and asking the shelves…. ‘Have I read this?’

Stooping and thinking, shaking heads, no, no. Not that.

Magnificent sunlight conducts the outside of the shop. But is irrelevant. It can stop trying now.

One girl has piled books up, carries them around, keeping order with her chin.

There is a phone conversation. Giving directions. Head back outside (not happily), and shout to someone in the street (fool!)

The rest of the group enter.

Then more.

Diary of a Nobody, Inkheart, Treasure Island, John Steinbeck, Eoin Colfer, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Black Beauty, Kidnapped, wondering, hissing… ‘You already have that.’

‘How many teeth does an Aardvark have, who knows that?’ Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, The Lost Necklace of Amber or something like that. Someone has lost a water bottle. The light on the darkened windows of the parked cars outside the window dazzles and hurts. Sherlock Holmes. Anais Nin. D. H. Lawrence, Eric Carle.

‘I love Anais Nin. And Harry Potter.’

Somebody is called outside because they have too many books. There is a brief, respectful silence.

Enid Blyton, Laura Ingalls….. ‘What’s her other name?’

Are you getting this?

Pride and Prejudice.

‘Do you have Tarka the Otter?’

‘Do you have the sequel to Sweet Thursday?’

They move and murmur, gather and turn. Read on knees, in silence. Gather up the chosen volumes, phones, a scarf, a sister, a book that will  help them read Proust, and slowly everyone is leaving. It is the end of the day and they leave, file out, eyes like jewels.

 

Illustration from The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Errol Le Cain

 

 

Pirates

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People came in off the train today.. Possibly all together but I wasn’t sure. There was a doorway snarl…. shut the door Ern, look at the weather…and an argument over roses…let them be, it’s too late to fiddle with them now

They came in and out, looking for the bakery, needing black coffee, strong, and The Readers Digest Book of Roses, holding the door open for other customers, looking for Bob and Ern who have gone off..

One lady talked and talked in the back room. Her husband, leaning on the counter with his eyes closed, suddenly realized he should have been in there, listening. He rose up magnificently, said, oh Jesus, and powered away from the counter, elbows out and a good balance.

There were more voices, calling, fluting, floating, as groups gathered, changed plans and agreed with each other with narrowed eyes…just do as she says…

A young family burst in, the child shouting, here we are, back for more pirates, I already read book one…so we came back, if we ate all our oranges we were allowed…

There are three couples all safely inside the shop. There is a disappointing lack of Roses, Grown the Natural Way. Ern has been found. Violet should go home. Chris has found a book of possibly good poetry.

We’ll come back when we have more time…. good place, good place. Though…

The child with the pirates is under the table, reading fiercely, unable to get up and leave, a divine three dollars spent, he is on book two, book three is breathing next to him.

His mum says to me in a tired way, not sure why he reads so much, his grandpop is the same.

The child pulls his eyes from the page, outraged.

Mum. Pop’s a pirate. He told me it.