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Letter: A grim Halloween dream

A sign in the window of Afterwords Bookstore in downtown St. John’s announcing its closure.
A sign in the window of Afterwords Bookstore in downtown St. John’s announcing its closure. - Kenn Oliver/The Telgram file photo

 

Recently, I had a disturbing Halloween dream.

I dreamed our oldest indy bookstore, Afterwords, was about to close, as the proprietors were retiring. In mourning, the Holy Cross Senior Women’s soccer team, while playing in Vancouver, stood immobile in positions for all of a critical game. They lost 74 to 0 to the fourth-ranked Capilano Cougars.

Nevertheless, a crowd of 10,000 greeted them at the airport in triumph upon their return. No police were present.

I dreamed our oldest indy bookstore, Afterwords, was about to close, as the proprietors were retiring.

Free of charge, the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre threw open its doors that evening for a rally celebrating independent reading.

Keynote speaker Donald Dunphy told a full auditorium the best way to help Iceland was by our example.

“If they could see us reading on our own, books from the ages, books about the wide world, they would lose interest in their poor self-absorbed writers, leaders and entertainers, and look outward, as we do. What do they know of Iceland, who only Iceland know?”

No police were present.

Dunphy then called for testimonials from the audience. “Who has learned to think for him/herself by reading?” he asked.

A carpenter held up “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” (by Robert Tressell), claiming it should be the bible of all tradesmen; a fiery young woman held up “Main Street” (Sinclair Lewis). “We should send Iceland a boatloadful of this book,” she urged. A priest emotionally explained how “The Last Temptation of Christ” (Nikos Kazantzakis) had made him “human again.”

Others championed books about people and places: “The Mountain People” (Colin Turnbull); “The Gulag Archipelago” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn); “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” (James Agee).

I suddenly awoke to someone whanging a guitar and singing the words “Come Out With Me” again and again.

I’d surely been dreaming. No local sports team would be so unsportsmanlike. It is Newfoundlanders, not Icelanders who have cultural zenophobia, high illiteracy and who have never heard of most, if not all, of those books.

The St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre would not rent to, and no one would come to, a rally for readers, not if a loud rock band could be found instead.

Donny Dunphy was shot and killed in his own home by a lone policeman, a bodyguard of the premier. There were no witnesses though the police were present.

Afterwords bookstore closed (Oct. 31, 2017, Halloween) because not enough local people buy locally and read. Now I was fully awake.

 

Frank Holden

St. John’s

 

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