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There for you

06 May 2020

There for you Image

Cam Dusting is stuck five hours a day behind a desk in Southbank trying to help people through the COVID-19 crisis.

He’s studying psychology but that isn’t what his customers crave.

They’re after a distraction from the constant stream of news.

Cam works in Mary Martin Bookshop at Southgate and he has a shelf full of recommendations for customers.

For those going stir crazy he recommends Boy Swallows Universe, a novel set in Queensland about a boy who grew up in a drug-dealing family.

For those who are depressed, he suggests an amusing and heart-warming novel imported from the United States.

But what he reads himself is Parties, a book of excerpts from novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald who was considered to be an expert on the topic.

“I’ve only read one,” Cam said, but that hasn’t stopped him from forming an opinion, like all budding fiction writers.

“Most protagonists are introverts,” he said. “They shy away from people.” But the protagonist of The Great Gatsby begins his narrative at a party.

“He’s invited as a neighbour. He walks around trying to find someone to talk to. He meets a woman who is like a guide.”

In the COVID-19 era of social isolation, Cam recommended Parties as an antidote for feeling lonely. “It’s great, feeling immersed at being in a party.”

The bookseller has tried Zoom but said that reading came closer to the original feeling. “It’s a better copy of the real thing,” he said.

Mary Martin Bookshop has remained open even though custom has dropped at the Southbank store.

“There’s usually huge traffic from tourists,” Cam said. “It’s weird. I’m actually still happy to work. The fact that I can stand here makes it less painful. I’m lucky I’m still able to go to work. Otherwise I’d be suffering more.”

He catches the bus from Kew into work. “Often I’m the only person on the bus for the entire trip. There’s no peak hour.”

A customer arrived and bought four books, including (not surprisingly) The Great Gatsby and Scar Tissue, the autobiography of Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist Anthony Kiedis.

Before the crisis, customers used to spend an hour browsing. Now they’ve got their shopping expeditions down to half an hour.

It’s a brave act staying open when other bookshops have closed but customers are loyal and all those under stress will remember that Mary Martin’s was there for them when they needed it most •

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