The Books in My Bathroom

There’s a basket, strategically placed for purposes of access, of books in my bathroom. This is invariably true, no matter where my bathroom happens to be. It has been true in several states and several countries on several continents. I do not carry a basket with me wherever I go, though I will always find one of appropriate size and capacity. I carry books with me wherever I go.

Let me tell you about the books in my bathroom. They fall into three categories, I have discovered, though this epiphany was just that. I did not pre-divide the books in my bathroom into their three categories. The combination of circumstance, convenience and chance made it so. Such happens with so many of the interlocking parts of the material world in which we envelop our daily selves. The first category is likely the most practical; this category includes collections of poems, short stories (I find that Lydia Davis and Donald Barthelme are excellent for this purpose, though I do hope that neither would think only for this purpose. Barthelme passed away almost thirty years ago. I do not think he will mind his work being among the books in my bathroom.) and the occasional novel or nonfiction work with frequent paragraph or page breaks. I do not think I need to further explicate the reasons underlying this first class of books in my bathroom.

William Faulkner and James Joyce do not appear among the authors whose works fill my basket.

The second category is a bit more slippery. They are the fish in my basket. The third category contains the loaves, but first, the second category: these include longer short stories, long-form periodical pieces and works which otherwise would fall into the third category, yet have the occasional chapter or section long enough not to qualify for the first category, but brief enough to fit within the allotted time. Drama also qualifies, though reading a scene or two without continuity in either direction could disturb unity. We must not upset Aristotle.

I suppose As I Lay Dying would qualify for admission into my basket. My mother is a fish, for instance. As I Lay Dying has not been among the books in my bathroom.

The third category consists of books I read in an armchair. Books that I require a desk or table to accommodate note-taking or tortured rereading of single sentences do not fit into my basket. I cannot read Benjamin or Badiou half-immersed in hot water. The books I read in an armchair (or, lacking an armchair, an economy seat in a commercial airliner, the waiting room of a doctor’s office, any journey on the Green ‘B’ line. I imagine the books I read in an armchair I would also read on a sea voyage, but I have not taken any sea voyages.) are the books I would not read when I have only a handful of minutes. They are the loaves, and I must sink my teeth into them. Water is important. As hot as I can stand it, but not hot enough that my glasses fog. I cannot see without my glasses.

William Faulkner and James Joyce are not among the authors I read while immersed in the third category of books in my bathroom, though they are among the authors I read while sitting in an armchair. Sometimes my cat jumps on the arms of my armchair and tries to sit on my lap, on top of the book I am reading. This is not an issue when reading the books in my bathroom. The conclusion is that owning a cat makes reading William Faulkner and James Joyce difficult. This is true.

The trope is not to judge a book by its cover. I do not judge a book by its cover, but if am a guest, I do judge the owner of a bathroom on the covers of the books in their bathroom. That judgment may not be fair, but what am I to do if there are no books in their bathroom? A suspension of judgment in that case would hardly be possible, as I am a person with books in his bathroom. My parents keep, among other books, a Bible in their basket. I do not understand this. I keep a candle in my basket. I have read by candlelight when it has been necessary or desirable.

Reading a book in the bathroom by candlelight makes the shadows dance and the spines gleam. Rilke is suitable to read by candlelight in the bathroom, Ashbery is not. Do not ask for further explanation. You will receive none.

I light my candle with an engraved lighter I keep in my pocket at all times. I do not smoke in the bathroom, as my basket contains no ashtray.

That is the prolegomenon to the story of the books in my bathroom.

~ by Benji on February 28, 2017.

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