‘listen, there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go’ (e.e.cummings)


Steve is my first customer today and has come by for more westerns again. He is furious that someone has tried to shoot his cat. He said that if his gopher was any faster he would shoot back and kill them. He apologised for the other books he had with him from the local library, but felt that he should be supporting libraries too, seeing as the government didn’t. I thanked him for supporting me and asked if he remembered the first time he had stopped here. He said that he didn’t. I commented that reading is a good way to get through the day, but he replied that his days were quite good anyway and would be even better if he could get the bastard who was trying to knock off his cat.

Reading is not escape for all readers. Only for some.

Everybody has a different angle on this idea: either their reading translates into an escape from something, or it works as an enhancement of where they already are. But some readers referred to reading as a portal to elsewhere, like another world. As close as next door.

Mary picked up her copy of The Tulip by Anna Pavord and told me that she is volunteering to sit at the gallery on Saturday afternoons, and that it was going to be hell.  But a good book would get her through.

Marty told me that Beau, his brother who is five, only looks at the words but does not read them. But he himself actually reads them, and this is how he knows so much about Star Wars and the Skulduggery books. I asked if he read books in his spare time, and he said that he played sport in his spare time. He reads books in all his other times.

There are no answers, only more perceptions.

Leon asked me for the Harry Potter books, wondering how many there were in the series. He has finished with vampires for the moment. He looked at the stack of Harry Potter books and said that he was done with seasons one and two. That he needed the third one. He said that he has injured his back, and his dad told him that the best thing to do for this was to hang yourself. From your arms so that everything straightened out again.

Dylan has been wanting a copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making for a long time because with a title like that, it had to be good. Later he told me that it is a brilliant book. He said that it is a toothsome romp of a fairy tale, and I said ‘good description’ and he showed me that this is what is written on the back of the book. But now I’m going to read it, starting tonight. It is about a child called September, exeunt on a leopard, blown by the Green Wind who lives above the clouds in the shantytowns where the Harsh Airs live…

Garth said that the best writing came about because the universe that contained those writers was in no way good, and so they were compelled to write in order to be able to survive. But then, when any of us  encountered those books for ourselves, our universe became a little better. Garth said that all great art does this.

Photography by Eric Johansson