Jan 13, 2010

Bathtub Baudelaire

When you have a library of several thousand volumes scattered throughout seven rooms and an outbuilding sometimes a book ‘goes missing’. Over the years many of my books have disappeared, often following visits from friends and family. I suppose the feeling was: "with so many books how can he notice?" Well, I did and do notice, and while I once felt rather violated (especially since in most instances I would have gladly given the book away if asked) I’ve reached a point, an age, where the loss of books is less traumatic. Of course there were instances (usually after a reorganization) when I thought a volume had been ‘borrowed’, only to later discover it tucked in an unexpected place. A case in point occurred today, and it was a pleasant surprise. Today I decided I no longer needed several feet of watercolour instructional books, and that the space could be put to better use housing T. C. Boyle, Robertson Davies, Donald Harington, Pound, Lewis, and Camus. Imagine my surprise, as I packed books into boxes to be taken to the library for their annual sale, when I discovered my tattered, rubber-banded paperback copy of Baudelaire’s ‘The Mirror of Art’! I had looked for this book several times during the past twenty years, always without success, and although I never considered it a book someone had ‘borrowed’ I was at a loss to explain its whereabouts. All those years it was waiting, shelved between books on human anatomy and Etruscan tomb paintings.

I remember the last time I was reading it, and the joy it brought me. I was lying in the bathtub after a miserable day spent planting trees in driving rain at near freezing temperatures, in actuality I was probably hypothermic. With the water nearly as hot as my water heater could manage I submerged myself, waiting for my body temperature to return to normal, and, being one of those persons who cannot spend more than a few moments without something to read at hand, I was reading ‘the Mirror of Art’. I was transported to a time and place a long way from the fiberglass tub. I look forward to bedtime, and the opportunity to continue the book from where I left off. Whether Baudelaire will bring the same joy I recall from so many years ago is something I can only hope for. If not, I have Beckett and Joyce, and several biographies to frolic with.

Now, if I could only rid myself of this persistent cold and sinus infection.

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