By Ruth Dawkins
I stand in line at the bookstore. In one hand is Gould’s Book of Fish; in the other is The Sound of One Hand Clapping.
“Which would you recommend for someone who’s new to Flanagan?” I ask.
“I love Gould,” says the assistant. “It’s a really beautiful book, but not easy. Clapping is good too, it’s more accessible.”
I keep weighing the two books up in my palms; I’ve read neither of them, so have nothing to go on but the blurbs. Which one best encapsulates Tasmania? Perhaps I should buy Narrow Road to the Deep North instead, but it feels like a predictable choice and all the award publicity means there’s a stronger chance he’ll already have it.
“I’ll go with Gould,” I say eventually. “It’s for an English teacher, I’m sure he can handle it.”
Later that day I stand in line again. I’m at the post office this time, holding a brown cardboard box that contains the book, a bottle of whisky small enough to escape the attention of customs, and a short, handwritten note. At the last minute I almost throw in some kids’ candy, and add a line to the note saying my son helped me pack the box, but I decide not to. Making up a cute story about my five-year-old’s involvement will make the whole exercise feel more weird, not less.
I reach the counter, pay forty dollars to send the parcel to Scotland, and then I wait.
A month passes. There is nothing. Then it’s two months, and I try to stop thinking about it, but I can’t help myself. It’s possible that the parcel has gone astray, but it’s also possible that I’ve made a spectacular misjudgement. Perhaps he hates Richard Flanagan. Perhaps he’s a recovering alcoholic and sending whisky is the worst possible thing I could have done. Perhaps he just doesn’t like to hear from former pupils, especially those who used to be in love with him. Continue Reading…