Saturday, March 12, 2022

Week 13: Riverbend

Good bookshops care about both writers and readers, and are often sources of employment for young writers and critics, editors and publishers. Many of my own students have worked at bookshops during and after their degrees.

Yesterday, I drove across town to visit one such place, Riverbend Books in the riverside suburb of Bulimba. To me, this part of Brisbane feels a little separate from the rest of the city, I expect because of the way the river guides such suburbs along its bends and peninsulas and through to its further reaches. But Riverbend Books is itself wonderfully connected, and has long been a hub of literary life in the city. It hosts many talks and events, plays a key role in the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and is a strong supporter of local writers and publishers.

I first met its owner Suzy Wilson in 2011 when I published The Promise of Iceland. Since then, I've been a regular visitor and have spoken at a number of the bookshop's events. Suzy reminded me that last time I was there, for a talk on Saga Land, I mentioned the so-called jólabókaflóð ('Christmas book flood'), which is the Icelandic name for the publishing of lots of books around Christmas, and also the practice of always giving books as Christmas presents. It seems the term resonated, for soon after I gave the talk a Jólabókaflóð Bookclub was formed at Riverbend and has been going since.

Such connections and responses are engagingly unpredictable, and they're also a reminder of how a bookshop hosts exchanges which create new currents and ideas that can then take on their own life. It's about four years, I think, since I mentioned jólabókaflóð at Riverbend, but really that's not so very long to hear back about the impact of a word, and what emerged as a result.

With Suzy Wilson, owner of Riverbend Books

The Sorrow Stone is currently Riverbend's 'book of the week'