As I’ve said earlier, J and I have abandoned Canberra for rural retirement in country Victoria. Being literary arty people we of course read books, go to the theatre and son, things which are still amazingly possible, with major theatre companies coming to a local arts centre to play Shakespeare, and the greengrocer putting flyers for an opera weekend in with your shopping.
But books. Now there’s a question. Fortunately we have a competent volunteer run second hand bookshop in the village which as a reasonable level of stock and does well out of the holiday reading trade, as well as another bookshop that sells new books even if it does tend towards lifestyle and cookery, stuff that sells, rather than literature.
For the rest, there’s the kindle for recent fiction and a few other things, and a combination of Abebooks and BookDepository for the non digitised, the second hand, and the stuff you actually need or want a physical copy.
What you don’t get is happenstance, the finding of books that you might never otherwise have bought. Yes, book reviews in the weekend papers help, but they’re not everything, something that became clear to me last week when we went down to Melbourne for a couple of days for J’s birthday and to see the Degas exhibition at the NGV.
We were staying in Carlton, and one afternoon we split up so that J could go shopping untrammelled by an impatient male and myself I went to the botanic gardens hoping to find a guide to the plants of the Victorian Alps in the shop.
Well it was bitterly cold, and the botanic gardens’ bookshop was useless, so I caught the tram back to Elgin street. Walking down Lygon Street back to the hotel I passed Readings bookshop, and I as I was still in search for an Alpine flora I went in.
I don’t know if they have one in stock or not – I only got as far as the history section before I’d spent my money – I could have spent more, a lot more, but what it did show me forcibly was the power of happenstance, of chance discovery, and something only really possible where you can support a bookshop that carries a large stock, which means a city.
How I recreate the joy of browsing I don’t know, but I’ll keep trying …