So here’s what happened last week: over on the far side of town from me is the low-rent student district. It’s a very different feel to the rest of the city, alternative, a bit seedy in places, but lively and vital with all kinds of unusual shops and cafes that stay open late. I walked down the main street to the Amnesty International bookstore, specialising in second-hand books. I looked in the window and there, at the front of the store was my old manager from the days before graduate studies and before marriage and motherhood, when I worked in one of the big bookstores in the centre of town. I had hoped that she would be there, but you know how it is when you’ve imagined something in anticipation; it hardly ever comes out that way. I’d decided it was time I found something interesting to do for myself, and it occurred to me that this might be just the ticket.
Well I went in the door and my old manager was surprised and delighted to see me; we last worked together in 1992 so we had a bit of catching-up to do. While we were chatting I asked if she needed any volunteer workers in the store and she said ‘Yes!’
I start next Friday.
I’m so excited about returning to a bookstore. It was uncanny when I was there, because the nineteen intervening years just fell away as if they had never been. I love my manager; she’s one of the most naturally funny and creative people I know and one of the nicest, too. The bookshelves were all black wood like they used to be in the big central store, and the stock was good, too. A friend of mine, when I told her where I would be working declared ‘that must be the most intellectual secondhand bookstore in the world’. After I’d been there ten minutes, a lecturer I knew walked in with a big carrier bag of donations, including Gabriel Josipovici’s book, What Ever Happened to Modernism? ‘Oooh,’ I said, ‘are you returning that because you’re done with it or because you didn’t like it?’ ‘Didn’t like it,’ he replied. ‘Or, at least, there were some nice insights but I didn’t like what he was doing with his knowledge. What did you think of it?’ This was the kind of conversation I always enjoyed having with the customers. I said to my manager, ‘The passage of time – we’ve conquered it.’ Although I wonder whether in fact, and in perfect keeping with the shop, we weren’t just slightly worn copies of our former selves; I certainly feel like a second-hand version of the shiny new person I was at 23.
So that’s my big news. What else happened? Well, I wrote the article. I’d been told 12-15 pages, which I calculated to be about 6,000 words, which seemed a lot, although naturally when it came to it, I’d got material for at least 16,000. And of course, I’ve been reading. I read Patrick Hamilton’s modern classic, The Slaves of Solitude for Simon’s readalong. And I’ve almost finished the Josipovici book I mentioned above for the Wolves, who are kindly allowing me to join in their group read. I’m loving Neville Symington’s lectures given to the Tavistock clinic, The Analytic Experience, and have just begun a biography of my lovely Rilke. I’ll be posting on some of those this coming week, and catching up with blog reading and commenting, too. It’ll be good to hear what you’ve all been doing. Oh but one thing – I seem to be having problems getting my comments accepted at any blogger site. I have no idea what the matter is, but apologies if I appear to be absent – I’m not! Just blocked out.