Wednesday 20 March 2002

Ah, but I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.

Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown This afternoon, on my way to the pool, I walked into Gould’s Book Arcade. Bob Gould, a legendary warrior of the Australian Left, has run an enormous, disorganized, secondhand bookstore in various locations for as long as I can remember. Its current incarnation is five minutes from where I live.

Gould was sitting with his ample belly resting comfortably against the front counter. His hair and beard have turned a beautiful silvery white. I hadn’t seen him for quite a few years.

“I’m after a copy of Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” I told him.

“Third aisle from the left at the back of the shop,” he replied. “If I have a copy.”

As I walked towards the rear I heard him yell out, “I know you! What’s your name?”

I turned back to face him. “Jonathon Delacour,” I said.

“That’s right. I remember now. You’ve put on weight. You were thin and intense then. And you called yourself ‘John’.”

He’s right. I’ve put on a few pounds. And I’m Mr Mellow compared to how high-strung I was when Gould and I used to run into each other at demonstrations in the seventies. I always hated the names my parents gave me—John Anthony—so I collapsed them into a single name. (After a dream in which I was standing in line waiting for my name to be called. A voice said: “Jonathon.” I thought to myself, “That’s me.” And, to confirm it, I looked down at the 3x5 index card I was holding and saw it spelled out: J-O-N-A-T-H-O-N.”)

I located a copy of Kundera’s novel, filed — miraculously — under K. Gould’s shop is such a shambles that you can never be sure of finding anything. I took it back to the counter and handed it to him with a $50 note. He gave me back two twenties and some change. Later, when I looked inside the front cover, I saw it was $6.95, a third of the new price.

We chatted for fifteen minutes or so about the old days. He told me he’s written 500,000 words of a memoir. He’d recently gained access to the dossier that ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organization) had compiled on him through the sixties and seventies. “They did me a great favor,” he said, “although they didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t keep a diary then and now I have a complete record of my comings and goings.”

He gave me a stack of printed sheets, some chapters of the memoir. Knowing Gould and knowing just a fraction of what he’s seen and done, it’ll make extraordinary reading if he manages to finish it. I promised to read what he’d given me and to come back again to discuss it. Then I headed off to the pool. I can’t bear the thought of being intense again but I’d certainly like to be thinner.

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I liked this story. I wonder if you and I protested the same things at the same time in the seventies?

Posted by Burningbird on 20 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I'm Garth's fiance. He sent me this link, and I wanted to tell you that I have faxed a copy of this to my father who, when he comes to visit us from Port Stephens, looks for any excuse possible to go to Gould's. Like a smoker sneaking out of the office for his next fag, give my dad 5 spare minutes and hes "Just off to that place up the other end of King St...."

Posted by zoe on 20 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Jonathon We highly likely met in the 70s in Bob's chaotic bookshop in George Street opposite the cinemas. I remember many raucous drinks and conversations with Bob and his ex-Playboy Bunny girlfriend. I also remember finding many treasured volumes I still have.
And now I too wish I was thinner ;-)

Posted by Allan on 20 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

"I can't bear the thought of being intense again but I'd certainly like to be thinner." Beautiful, mate. I wouldn't mind much if those were my famous last words...

Posted by stavrosthewonderchicken on 21 March 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Dear Jon, if you can't bear the thought of being intense again, I wonder just how you feel you have mellowed out.........?

Posted by Lee on 20 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I'm not sure how I missed this post the first time around. Actually, I may not have been reading you yet. But either way, I'm glad I clicked the photo in that upper-left-hand corner.

Posted by Shannon on 24 February 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour