Not having been invited to the Queens birthday party on the long weekend, I decided to head into town to spend some gift certificates I had been given on my birthday. They were for Kinokuniya, a bookshop I have not patronised often, prefering Dymocks down the road. From memory it seemed pretty big, and I was looking forward to spending some quality browse time while I made my decisions. Perhaps I am abusing a stereotype, but I was under the impression that being a Japanese owned concern it would be run with ruthless efficiency by staff who would immediately know the answer to any question or kill themselves with shame.
Well they certainly were ruthless. I never saw one name badge with Ruth written on it.
I walked in and inhaled. The lulling smell of printed, bound bookiness mingled with the noodle bar on the other side of the escalator. I inhaled again and sadly realised that lack of coffee smell meant that the cafe within the store was closed. Never mind. I would go to lunch immediately I had made my decisions and enjoy my repast all the more for the waiting.
With no sense of urgency I wandered to the left. I wandered until I could wander no more lest I walk through the wall, and began my perusal of the wares which were presented in so many categories. History and philosophy were stacked ceiling high. Student types read Kafka and Churchill side by side. I wanted to use one of those small stool like contraptions with wheels that fold up when you stand on them allowing you a secure platform from which to tease the upper most shelves of their possessions, but all of them were being used as stools by those who would normally have been in the coffee shop, so I kept to the shelves that I could reach.
As I slowly made my way through crime, fantasy, and into literature, I was, by a process not dissimilar to osmosis, beginning to have a feel for what I was looking for. Having taken in the atmosphere I was leaning toward the classics. The raison d'etre for many a modern writer. I hadn't read any real classics in years, and began to hunger for Dickens, Hardy and the ilk. I approached the front desk and interrupted a staff member drinking coffee from a polystyrene cup. I asked where I might find the right section to satisfy my wants.
"What do you mean by classical?", he asked.
Feeling that he may have mistaken me for someone who perhaps had an interest in the architecture of the Parthenon I elaborated.
"Hmmm. That sounds like it would be in the literature section. We don't really have a distinct section for those types of authors. What were you looking for?".
I mentioned David Copperfield, ruminated that I might like to try Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and wondered if I would be more successful in tackling War and Peace than my Grandmother who gave it lacklustre reviews.
For David Copperfield he pointed out that I might try hobbies as that was where magic "how to" books were likely to be kept.
Whilst I understand that Mr Copperfield the magician is a man who has achieved reasonable celebrity, I would have thought that someone working in a bookshop given the context of our conversation would have been a little closer to the mark. The look on my face must have said something to him as he pointed out that there was an information desk and a touch screen computer available for my use.
I decided on the computer. I had little joy with my search for the classics as they were all listed as out of stock. Then I remembered that Bernard Cornwell's third book in the Saxon series should be out and decided to look for that instead. Apparently it was in stock, so I pressed the button that said it would display the map that would show me where to find it. An error message came up on the screen. In Japanese. I pressed one of the three options without a clue as to what it meant, and the program shut down. I could see no icon on the desktop that looked as though it may start the program again, so I decided to rely on the information desk, and it's humanity.
The young bloke behind the counter was leaning back precariously on his chair chatting to another employee who was half heartedly covering books. I asked them the same questions re Dickens and Hardy, and asked if they were aware of the release of the new Bernard Cornwell. In the most helpful manner that had been displayed in the store that entire morning, I spelled Bernard Cornwell three times before he found it.
"It should be in literature." he said. "And the Cornwell stuff is through that wall, two shelves across."
Through that wall two shelves across was the end of crime fiction and the beginning of fantasy. Fantasy as in the genre rather than the staffs state of mind. Strangely enough as I walked passed the crime fiction I found an area chock full of Bernard Cornwell.
Things were beginning to sour, and that to my mind is something that should not happen in a bookshop. To avoid any permanent damage I grabbed the Cornwell and a book on Boudicca, handed over my vouchers, paid the balance and fled to the Australian hotel in the rocks for pizza.
If you're ever at The Australian, try the rocket and prosciutto pizza. It's fantastic.