Monday, January 15, 2007


I sell books for bucks part-time. Our staff is a thoroughly attractive bunch. One girl, the lovely J, a fresh-faced, green-eyed, luminescent beauty, often finds herself approached by hopeful suitors. One day, a Jasper Fforde signing sci-fired up readers, the bookstore abuzz with the chattering commotion of fans. J stood sentinel, directing them into lines. She was approached by a man who asked her if Fforde would sign a book by a different author. Unfortunately, he had left his Fforde collection at home, he stated, with a strange conviction in the normalcy of this explanation. Odd request, but she had encountered it before. Advising him that Fforde would probably sign it, J told him to line up and check with the author. The man did not move on but instead, looking at her expectantly, asked her to sign the book for him.

“I don’t quite understand you” J replied, thinking he was one of the mild weirdoes that bookstores inevitably attract.

“I was wondering if you could sign my book” he repeated, “and…just underneath add your phone number” he said self-assuredly.

She chuckled gently, replying, “A for originality, but I have a boyfriend”.

“You can’t help but try” he said, walking away, his pride consoled, having elicited a giggle from a pretty girl.

The bookstore. A place for a bibliophile’s solo discovery. A pick-up joint. Most that enter enjoy reading. But is a love connection based on literary preference a risk worth taking? Journalist Marieke Hardy investigates this question in the Age article Left on the Shelf. She recalls her past bookish liaisons:

“Joel insisted I bone up on Bulgakov; Matty read Bukowski and then wrote countless pages in a similarly liquored-up style; Simon swore by the dusty prose of Tim Winton.”

In search of a literary lover, she attends a literary speed dating event in the hope of meeting, perhaps, an absolutely edible Vonnegut reader. Painstakingly, she chooses her book, Confederacy of Dunces, with awareness that reading taste speaks volumes about a person. The timer ticks, and the bibliophiles circulate:

"Men come and go; pages whirring. The music stops and starts. One by one, I am presented with a variety of male courters holding a variety of novels. David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species. In Cold Blood. The Michael Palin Diaries.

"Oh, lovely," I say when I see the Palin. "What's it like?".

He glances down at the shiny hardback. Picks absently at an Angus and Roberston price sticker.

"I don't know, I haven't read it. To be honest I just thought it looked OK so I picked it up on my way here and ..." he trails off, shrugging.
There is an awkward pause.

"So what do you do?" he asks eventually, trying to surreptitiously look down my top before our five minutes is up."

Loveless, Marieke Hardy emerges despondent. She muses that “an adoration of fine scribes can be such a random gift”. Consolation affords itself in the form of empty pages of possibility. Random moments on the train line, dinner parties and future novels offer opportunity for literary entanglement. Indeed, although most would not choose their nearest and dearest based on reading matter, it thrills the booklover’s heart to have a ‘you too?’ moment with another reader.

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