A second meander around some nearby bookshelves, which are almost ready for Christmas.
I’m almost ready for Christmas here. To my partner Sarah’s amusement, once I’d finished my work on Friday, I went down to the Oxfam shop nearest to where we live and did what she calls my Christmas shopping. Mostly second hand books, and quite a few. Enough to see me through the quiet days when, like the majority of us, I’ll pause from my work and enjoy myself. Which in my case means I’ll be reading.
Not all the time of course. There’ll be some talking, quite a lot of walking around, some writing maybe, and of course quite a lot of music. But to quote Devon Sproule, one of my favourite songwriters:
“I’ve got the bookshelves loaded”
So all is calm, all is bright and, as I said, I’m almost ready for Christmas.
Not that I’m not reading already of course. It’s been the weekend and so the first of Friday’s purchases has already been read. Much like ‘Stoner’ by John Williams, the last secondhand book I wrote about on here, this one is an apparently quiet story about a seemingly unremarkable life that’s not so unremarkable at all. In fact one of the review quotes on the back cover of this refers to ‘Stoner’ which is what made me pick it up in the first place, along with its beautifully marbled cover illustration of the German mountainside where most of it takes place:
“His plot was too small for a farm of his own, but it was big enough for a tiny vegetable garden. Right at the end he erected a low fence around his new home and put in a little gate, with the express intention of being able to hold it open one day for some potential visitor who might come calling.”
Things happen, and one day his visitor does come calling. Then eventually he dies on his mountainside:
“I suppose it is late” he heard himself say, and it was as if his own words hovered in front of him before bursting in the light of the little moon in the window. He felt a bright pain in his chest, and watched as his body sank slowly forwards and his head came to rest with his cheek on the tabletop. He heard his own heart. And he listened to the silence when it stopped beating. Patiently he waited for the next heartbeat. And when none came he let go and died.”
A thoughtfully crafted joy. And I’ll probably slip it back into the Oxfam on Smithdown Road before Christmas if you fancy it?
Then I’ll proceed to the rest of my reading queue:All of them secondhand or library books. Apart from the Theodore Zeldin, which I’m reading slowly and have already written about, and the Nick Drake book, borrowed from my daughter.
The keen observer who’s been around my blog a while and has seen my reading queue before might notice that while most of these books are new, at least to me, a couple of them have been queuing up for some time now. Revealing that I don’t always read my queue in the order I get them. Sometimes, in fact, books can hang around in the queue and then not get read at all as I no longer feel the urge that made me pick them up in the first place. Which is perfectly fine, as it’s my queue, my choice and even the bought books are only setting me back around £1.99, so it’s not too painful to give them back to Oxfam.
Anyway it’s nearly Christmas and that’s a reading queue of ten books, from Stefan Zweig to Nick Drake, peace and happiness for the quiet days to come.
Music was involved in my Christmas shopping too. Still in Oxfam, and flicking through the secondhand records, I found a treasure trove of country albums, including a lot of Merle Haggard. I bought a couple and may yet be back for more.
When this treasure thing happens I’m aware of looking through the tastes and collection of someone who’s probably just died. Suspecting someone this keen on Merle Haggard probably would have liked the Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris albums mixed in with them here on the shelves. I could be wrong and they’re just clearing, but either way it’s always a quiet joy to look through the music and the books that people before me have chosen.
A quiet joy in the quiet days of Christmas, and I’m nearly ready now.
Read more about the joy of secondhand books here. And here’s that Devon Sproule song about the bookshelves being loaded: