Adorning our munted living room wall is a glorious white paper bag. Three words, in an elegant red Helevetica typeface, announces to anyone and no-one in particular to EAT SLEEP READ
The bag was the repository for several books purchased at the annual Scorpio book sale some months ago. Scorpio Books has been around since the 1970’s and is without doubt a Christchurch institution. Anna and Max Rogers’ 1993 book Turning the Pages: The Story of Bookselling in New Zealand informs me that David Cameron purchased the then called Pisces book shop in April 1976. The shop, according to the Rogers’, was located in Fendalton and moved to its town site, on the corner of Hereford St and Oxford Terrace in February 1979. The change in astrological name also came with the move to town and Pisces Books became Scorpio Books. Should Mr Cameron be considering another name change I venture to suggest Phoenix Books. This, in my humble opinion, would fittingly depict the rising of this blessed bookshop from the dust and rubble to live for another cycle!
In 1976 I was a book-hungry adolescent living in the Christchurch suburb of Merivale. I don’t recall ever visiting Pisces Books before their move to town but I do remember visits to Easts Corner Bookshop, on the corner of Papanui and Springfield Road (Plume has relocated to this site post-earthquake). By the time I was visiting stewardship of Easts had been in the capable hands of Elisabeth and Joe Bercusson for seven years. The Rogers’ point out that prior to the Bercussons’ taking over “the Corner Bookshop’s only claim to being a bookshop was that it carried a few paperbacks along with its cigarettes, tobacco and magazines. Elisabeth recalled that the first hardback she bought was Dr Neil Begg’s book on child care; the three copies all sold on the day they arrived in the shop. That was the fisrt step in building what was to become, over the next ten years, one of the city’s most admired bookshops.”
Now back to the bag.
Its appeal was two-fold; firstly the succinctness in which three of my favourite activites (although not necessarily in that order) were conveyed. Secondly, I immediately saw its potential as a post-earthquake art installation. Although miraculously the 1967 John Drawbridges’ A Rather Transparent Girl No. 1, which hung on that fated wall, did not fall on February 22nd I had not been game enough to hang anything heavier than a paper bag!
Elizabeth Smither, in her recent book The Common Place Book: A Writer’s Journey Through Quotations, describes trying to keep ‘the white owl of criticism’ off her shoulder when she writes until she has reached her word length. Then as she says “I take the muzzle off the owl ….and he points out glaring errors of logic.”
I have not one, but a parliament of white owls, all without muzzles on my shoulder when I try to write. Getting started with this blog is a first tentative step towards putting a muzzle on at least one of those owls.
I think I will add WRITE to my paper bag!