I recently finished reading Magda Szubanski’s memoir ‘Reckoning’ and I couldn’t help wonder as the pages decreased was she leading the reader towards something large, something she had foreshadowed but something we could not imagine. The looming figure of her Polish father during wartime and her father here in Australia -like two characters she was trying to meld; or was she?

As she herself was trying to reconcile her sport loving tomboy girl, her scholastic private girls school student, her funny tubby actor with the ‘gay-gay-gay-gay-a-little-bit-not-gay’ self, the fear of what might be more than the reality of what actually was. Her father wasn’t a collaborator. He was in fact a judge-jury-executioner of collaborators. She wasn’t weak, a would-be collaborator. She, too, had the strength of her convictions.

The book made me hold my breath at times, read longer into the night than possibly I should, let my tea go cold and occasionally fight back the tears.


Basically the word, tsundoku, refers to the piling up books to be read. In the last year, my local library workers have begun to get that glint of recognition in their eye and been happy to linger to answer my questions. The hold facility is a great way to line up my wish list but they don’t have everything I want. I do take advantage of their suggestions section recommending new or interesting but obscure publications.

All that said, there’s something enticing about a pile of books on my bedside table. So, I’ve been gathering recently and it’s exciting. There are worlds ripe to be explored, characters to get to know, breaths to be held and sleep to be postponed.

I reached out on social media about a month ago looking for reading recommendations and I got them and more. I had books sent to me in the post as well as piles left by my door. I also was fortunate enough to re-connect with a friend from primary school. We hadn’t seen each other in 33 years. She promised a cache of books larger then was practical to send through the post.

So on Christmas eve at 2 pm, we met at a local wine bar with the pretense of her handing over some books to me. The day was hot and dry; the streets were mostly empty. Anyone smart was sitting at home in air conditioned comfort wrapping presents. I was a few minutes early, as is my habit, and I opted for an Aperol spritz to slack my thirst but keep my head. Though the umbrelled bench outside was empty, the one free table inside made choosing my spot superfluous. 

I had recently rediscovered the wine bar. It is walking distance to my house which is always of great benefit to a wine bar. It is open during the day, as well as the evening, to enable my daytime penchant for a glass of something tasty. They make a mean coffee for my non-drinker friends, if I have any. The food is consistently good without being expensive or fancy. They even have vitello tonnato on the menu which I can never not order.

There was little time to contemplate if I would recognise my childhood friend – though I could visualise her family home well – for just then a tall willowy woman in a dark blue silk shift dress walked downhill past the door. She looked up and stopped, checking the transom for signage then swung open the door and entered. Briefly, the heat and chaos of this time of year entered with her but she paused, straightened and smiled as I caught her eye. All at once she radiated calm and grace, leaving any hurly-burly behind.

Over several more Aperol spritz, we laughed, conversed and made plans to catch up again. We spoke of books we loved, books we gave up on, culinary habits, partners, travel and moving on. She paid for my drinks as long as I promised to buy the drinks next time. I’ve done this before as a way of obliging my companion into another meeting. It’s a great ploy that generally works.

So I had a lovely couple of hours chatting, some delicious drinks and got a stash of books for my Summer reading. 

I now am in the delightfully indulgent state of tsundoku.

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