I've always found the 'Australian Fiction' section of bookstores here to cause a curious mix of responses. The first is that it's usually incomplete, with Australian authors found in Speculative Fiction, Crime, Romance, and General Fiction, plus others. Secondly, if I stare at the Australian Fiction shelves long enough (and you can usually take them in with one glance) I begin to believe that Tim Winton, Matthew Reilly and Bryce Courtney are incredibly important to Australia and that they must--while fighting mutated animals and swimming in the Antarctic, perhaps--capture the essence of what it is to be Australian. Otherwise, why else would they be there while so many others are not? Eventually, however, I just shrug and tell myself that it's good that Australian fiction is being promoted, but in truth, I'd rather the Umberto Eco novel.*
In Kinokuniya, the giant Japanese bookstore off George Street in the city, there is a Japanese Fiction shelf. I find myself drawn to it every time, but rarely think about if Ryu Murakami or Koji Suzuki are incredibly important to Japan. I just get drawn. It's different. I get sucked in on that. Even now, typing this, I'd like more bookshelves that specialised in translations from certain countries. I'd particularly like an Icelandic Fiction shelf.
Yet, if I had my way, I'd kill the Australian Fiction shelf.
It's an interesting contradiction, I think. Least it is right now and, as I let it turn over, I also have to admit that bookstores are something that I visit less and less. I used to love bookstores, but now, I do most of my book shopping online, and not because most of the books I want aren't available here. They're not available, but even when they are, I order online. I'm not quite sure when this habit developed, but it has, in the last five years, and in small moments that have been motivated by the rising Australian dollar and the rising price of books in Australia, turned book shopping into a virtual shopping experience. So why, in the end, do I even bother thinking of shelves?
Weird train of thought, that. In other news, today I learnt that all medical students secretly yearn to sing and dance, but you're fucked if you think I'll pay to watch that.
* Actually, I've never read an Eco book, but I've been thinking about it quite a lot of late.