A happy coincidence of circumstances enabled me to hitch an unexpected lift to Mossman yesterday. Unlike my first (and last) visit when I needed to buy lots of things, this time I had only one goal: to join the library and bring home books.
In the past week, provoked by a fever of existential angst, I suddenly entered my novel-addicted state when I lose the ability to read slowly or in short bursts but instead am compelled to gobble fiction, preferably selected obscure science fiction, as fast as I can. It's some kind of chemical imbalance that, if I liked wine or jogging or reality tv, could probably be satisfied by another kind of fix. Unfortunately my drugs of choice are not so readily available in the rainforest, where the little two-shelf book exchange in the corner of the Cape Trib Shop, has proved insufficient to meet my narrow tastes now that I am on a book-reading bender.
This weekend I experienced that awful desperation that comes with being half-way through my Last Book. I know at least my mother, and Jo (oh, how we used to joke about our fear of somehow running out of books to read), will be able the imagine the bleak horror of such circumstances and anyone with a serious substance abuse problem will be able to empathise with the scrabbling panic of being down to the last cigarette or cup of coffee.
The gods were smiling on Monday morning though, when the B&B had no checkouts and all the guests finished breakfast early to depart for a rainy day on the reef, so with no significant housekeeping responsibilities I was able to join in Rob's sand-and-cement shopping trip across the river to Moss-Vegas.
There were errands to run on the way to Mossman: first unloading a trailer of rubbish and recycling at the Cow Bay Tip and then stocking up on fresh fruit and veges at Scomazzon's where the lady behind the counter was sure she'd overcharged Rob and insisted on weighing and totalling the large box of produce twice despite the line of customers growing behind us (the second total was greater than the first but she ended up only asking for the original price). By the time we cruised into Mossman I was panting with literary anticipation. Rob was taken aback, I think, when I forcefully declined to come for a cafe treat first, and hurled myself out of the car almost before he stopped around the corner from the library.
Being school holidays, the library was full of children, mostly from the local Kuku Yalingi community taking advantage of free internet access and largely ignoring the books as far as I could tell. But truly, I was too absorbed in meeting my own needs to pay much attention to anyone else there. I waited at the counter patiently for, oh, 5 seconds or so before calling out to attract the attention of a librarian.
I love librarians, the way an addict loves their dealer, love for the pleasure they facilitate and resentment for the gatekeeping power they can wield. The sweet, helpful young man was pleased when I said I wanted to join the library and far more disappointed than me when I couldn't provide the requisite identifying documents to prove my residency. I interrupted his suggestions for ways to acquire appropriate identification by saying I'd just buy one of those Lifetime Visitor Memberships I'd read about on the website. I was already pulling the notes out of my wallet, thrusting $25 across the counter.
"No", he said, pushing away the cash, "it will only take a couple of weeks to organise a new driver's license and then you can join for free".
"Just give me a (f*cking- subvocalised, so as not to be banned before I'd even joined) membership card now, I can't wait two weeks, I need to take books home with me today."
"But..." he started again, still refusing the notes I was pushing at him.
"Please," my voice rising in volume and pitch in my agitation. "I'm not trying to have a go at you, I just want a card now, I'm desperate for something to read and I don't mind paying. Please..." I started laughing, slightly hysterically, at my own ridiculous urgency, and finally he accepted my money and gave me a form to fill out.
Naturally there followed minutes, endless minutes, of red tape and slow computer processing, while I tried to act casual (cool had obviously never been an option for me here) until he finally handed over my very own rectangle of swipable plastic, that sweet key to satisfaction and I could walk into the stacks and begin to fill my arms with books.
Pip Pip: A Sideways look at time by Jay Griffiths (I'm only up to page 23 and its already changed my life)
Land of the Headless by Adam Roberts (the only sci fi I could find on the stacks that I want to read and haven't already)
Coral Reefs & Islands: A natural History of a threatened paradise by William Gray (lots of photos)
Tree: A Biography by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady (no photos)
Visions of a Rainforest: A Year in Australian's Tropical Rainforest by Stanley Breeden (illustrated with Willaim Cooper's watercolours instead of photos)
Djabugay Country: An Aboriginal History of Tropical North Queensland by Timothy Bottoms (worthy and dull, with sad, sad photos)
Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey (I wanted His Illegal Self but would have to wait for 8 other people to read it first)
The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease (historical novel about pre-letterpress book making)
The Encyclopedia of Scultping Techniques by John Plowman (not very well laid out)
Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: The Zen Journal and letters of an Irish Woman in Japan by Maura Soshin O'Halloran (I anticipate uplifting from existential angst)