School’s out for the long summer break, high summer has arrived, and it’s time for quiet afternoons on the deck or in front of the fan, sipping something cool and paging lazily through a good book.
Brand-new books are quite expensive in New Zealand, so you learn to beg, borrow, and steal (aka scoring a nice used copy for only a couple of dollars at a secondhand store, natürlich).
I bought a paperback copy of Middlemarch yesterday afternoon. I was standing in front of a used book shop in Kaikohe, looking through the sale books when a couple of painfully loud motorcycles went thundering down the street. The shopkeeper, lean, with smiling kind eyes, maybe 60 years old, appeared in the doorway and commented about having to plug his ears even inside the shop. He noticed I’d already picked up a book and said, “I’ve got another box half-full of classics in here somewhere, if you’d like to come in.” The book shop was one large cavern, with books everywhere, of every kind, stacked on each other and filling boxes. The atmosphere was heavy with the scent of decaying paper mixed with undertones of smoky campfire. There were maze-like paths through it all, and a chair near the front windows could have sported a Start Here sign.
He asked me where I was from, and when I said Seattle, he told me how his mother as a girl had billeted a U.S. soldier on their farm in England during WWII. “He was from Seattle, last name Wolfe with an ‘e’. I remember that because my mother struck up a correspondence with his sister that lasted many years. The soldier was killed in the war, as it happened, but my mother continued letter-writing long after that.”
We chatted about the books he had (both at hand and somewhere buried in the haystacks). Just before I walked in, he’d been reading a history of Rawene and the Hokianga. It lay open near his chair, with his keys weighing down the facing page. “So I don’t lose them in here,” he said with a grin.
I told him I’d stop by again sometime when I had more time. He said, “I tend to get smoked out by the butcher’s shop next door, but he’s going on holiday for the next three weeks, so I’ll be here trying to be industrious amidst my mess.”
He’s a solitary bee in a hive full of honey.
Other conversations in the past couple of days have included some German (I hereby recommit to rehabilitating my German), so web-based language games, MIT open courses, and translation projects will be part of my summer reading.
Last night I talked with a new friend who’s writing a mystery novel during her sojourn in NZ, and as if I needed the merest whisper of an excuse to read more mysteries, I’m inspired to keep plugging away at all the great English noir the little local library has in stock. That means reading all the John le Carré I can find, and anything else that darkly calls my name.
I’m still working my way through two Witi Ihimaera novels I’m borrowing from a friend who highly recommended them.
All of that, along with the two audiobooks I’m listening to (Game of Thrones and Sailing Alone Around the World) should give my subconscious lots to juxtapose while I’m sifting seashells, pulling weeds, or nursing a mint julep.
Happy Christmas, happy reading, and I’ll see you on Goodreads!