I am the granddaughter of a book collector. He had so many books that when he married my step-grandmother, he had the side verandah of her family house, a house in Vaucluse where she had been born, closed in for his study. Then he installed Compactus shelving to hold his library of maritime and crime history. The steel tracks for this were embedded in timber boards older than he was.
When I stayed with them during the summer holidays, it was my delicious fear that one day he would fail to see me hiding in later letters of the alphabet. He’d swing the steel frames down to search for something in E – F and squash me flat. It would take days before I was found in N – P and then I’d slip to the floor, a pressed girl like one of the faded flowers I found in my secondhand Billabong books.
I am also the daughter of a secondhand bookseller. When I was six my mother, with my father’s advance royalty for a contribution to a book on Australian opera singers, bought Lloyds Bookshop in Brisbane. I grew up surrounded by books. Visitors to our house would pull up a carton of books to perch on. Books to be marked or catalogued piled up on the dining room table between Christmas’s. One year we moved a pile of these to discover a perfect reverse lace pattern in grey bookdust of the previous Christmas’s tablecloth. My horrified mother tried … continue reading