Get Shouty

Medicine for the soul*
December 21, 2008, 6:28 am
Filed under: Get Activist

My friend Scott Drummond has being having serendipitous book adventures quite recently. Books have come to him, found on the street, tucked into his frame of reference with notes saying: ‘please take me, please read me, please pass me on’. This has inspired a number of very invigorating conversations and interactions which I need to spend a little more time unpacking before I can still life them for you.

In the meantime I want to share a lovely example of compassion in action- Sarah Garnett’s “Benjamin Andrew Footpath Library”. Started in 2003, it now it puts books on the footpaths in the city and Manly and distributes to hostels and 15 shelters- about 1200 a week. This library wants nothing from it’s borrowers- the books are there for the taking and would seem to spread light where ever they go.

Here’s a story from their website from a fan:

I found the footpath librarywhile queueing up for dinner at JEF’s food van across the road on a wintery Tuesday night in 2007. I’d been a regular since 2004 when I was living in a shitty boarding house in Redfern with my son who’d just been released from Rozelle hospital.

A little while before I was living & working as a professional artist in a cosy mud brick studio on the outskirts of Melbourne. Things were looking up, I was starting to sell paintings, was in with a leading gallery & my health was good. I’d given up the part time teaching job that I’d done for over ten years & was determined to make my living as an artist. But that was then. In 2007 I was sneaking into my studio at night to sleep when I could. I was evicted from the studio for dossing there. In between I slept out or stayed in a shelter.

Throughout this time when I couldn’t paint I’d read & I’m grateful for the footpath library for sustaining me. Reading took my mind off my troubles & gave me a respite from the constant motion that that kind of life demands. The footpath library has been a saving grace. Apart from being down & out in Sydney I’ve been down and out in Paris and London with George Orwell, read about the homeless in Victorian London in Peter Ackroyd’s “London: A Biography”‘, discovered Proust in the Edward Eager Lodge, hung around seedy ports in the South Pacific with Conrad’s Lord Jim & reread one of my favorite books; Joyce Cary’s “The Horses Mouth” with its patron saint of destitute artists Gully Jimson. I read a book on the Lives of the Saints & felt both inspired & humbled. ” The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats” gave me the background on those writers , some of whom I’d read & vowed to read again one day. I wandered through Europe in the 50’s through the eyes of Lloyd Rees & his wonderful drawings and was glad I was sober after reading a biography of Charles Bukowski. Patrick Whites “Tree Of Man” made my troubles look pretty small & I learnt a little humility from reading the life of the Australian poet John Shaw Neilson. Things have picked up since then. I’ve got a cosy little room in Glebe & am painting the grounds of the old asylum my son was a patient in . I’ve got in with another gallery & even sold some work, there’s a survey show coming up in Melbourne later in the year & I’ll take a trip down for that. I’ve got a belly full of cabbage and ham soup & you can guess where I found the recipe for that old chestnut!

* Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes


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