I’ve just had the pleasure of reading a typically charming and interesting article by Joseph Epstein about the pleasures of reading (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/11/the-bookish-life).
There’s little I could add to this. When it comes to books and reading he speaks for me as well. On every point we are in accord, which chuffs me more than you could imagine.
I’m not about to rehash what he wrote – read it yourself – but rather go off on a tangent he briefly refers to.
I’m sure I’ve previously written about the pleasures of reading in the bath. I’m a great bath-taker. To ease myself into a steaming hot bath at the end of a long day is a pleasure both physical and mental. It’s an escape from the world. There you are languishing in the warm embrace of your bath, your muscles relaxing in the soothing water, your mind unwinding from its tight coil. In that time the world stops spinning. It’s somewhere outside, in the raw, uncivilised elements, but here you are reclining with nothing better to do than gently bathe. Fuck the world, this is my time!
That’s not to say you don’t think. There are occasions I set myself to ponder some deep and meaningful thing while lying in the bath. In the bath I have a space of time free to indulge in such examinations. I can dedicate myself to the puzzle at hand, eased along by torpor of the bath, which seems to assist when delving through the metaphysical layers to the very nub of the issue. The steam, the hot water, the very mellowness of the occasion smooth out the trickier elements and eases you over and past the mental obstacles that stubbornly hold you up when upright and perfectly alert. A good bath makes for a very different state of mind.
There are few occasions when I don’t read in the bath. It’s one of the things I look forward to – hoping into the hot water and leaning back to read some suitable paperback while the heat is still on. I might only read a chapter or two before I get around to the proper business of washing myself, perhaps topping up the hot water while I’m at it.
In my mind it takes a very particular type of book suitable for the bath. In broad terms it is something you can dip into and out of with ease. It has easily digestible, possibly even distinct parts. Often it’s just the sort of book I wouldn’t think to read while lying in bed at the end of the day.
One of the notable books I’ve read in the bath is Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. I’ve also read the autobiography of Jung, the maxims of Marcus Aurelius, once I even read a book or two by Osho trying to make sense of things. More recently I’ve read the notebooks of Simenon, and currently, the letters of Ian Fleming.
There’s a shelf behind the bath and sitting there already are the books I’ll get to next. They include a book about notable, great movies, and another about how to properly pleasure a woman, co-written by a lesbian.
Speaking of – there’s few things better than sharing a bath with someone you adore. Candles, a glass of wine, slippery naked bodies…But then that’s another story…