The Bathroom Library

Apr 21 2012 @ 2:44pm

The poet Charles Simic contemplates the collections he has stumbled across in strangers' homes:

It was unclear to me whether Plato’s dialogues in original Greek, together with Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel were there to impress the visitor, or in the case of another fellow who had a pile of memoirs by ex-presidents going back to Reagan, to make him laugh. I can’t say that I’ve encountered a whole lot of poetry in bathrooms, even in the homes of poets, though I’ve come across many an anthology. Would reading one of Hamlet’s soliloquies or John Keats’ "Ode to a Nightingale" in such a setting be unbecoming? I don’t know. I’ve heard of people reading the Bible on the toilet, which even for an unbeliever like me came as a shock. Even more appalling to me was the discovery, in a famous art collector’s bathroom, of a painting of the Madonna and the Child, either by some highly competent imitator of Raphael—or perish the thought!—by the master himself. …

I’m convinced that a lot of serious thinking has always been done in bathrooms, and that it is an irreparable loss to humanity that the names and ideas of these philosophers are not known. No doubt Pascal was right when he said that most evils in life arose from "man’s being unable to sit still in a room."

Previous coverage here.