Saturday, July 22, 2006

Reading - At Your Convenience

Reading in the toilet has a long and honourable history, author Henry Alford reveals in the New York Times in a piece aptly entitled Chamber Plots.:
In the mid-18th century, Lord Chesterfield wrote that he knew “a gentleman who was so good a manager of his time that he would not even lose that small portion of it which the call of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets, in those moments.” ... Most scholars contend that bathroom reading is largely a modern pursuit: the chamber pots and outhouses in use prior to the 1920’s and 30’s were not ideal for perusing texts. Yet Roman baths contained libraries wherein one could pore over scrolls, and “The Life of St. Gregory” (1296-1359) recommends the isolated retreat of the medieval fortress toilet — located high up in towers, close to heaven, so as to offset the perceived baseness of the act being committed — as a place for uninterrupted reading. “The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” whose pages were often ripped out by people in outhouses and put to practical use, has always come with a hole in its upper left-hand corner for easy hanging. A collection of summaries of literary works published in 1991 as “Compact Classics” fared poorly in the marketplace until it was renamed “The Great American Bathroom Book,” whereupon its first volume sold a million copies. Indeed, so profitable is this publishing niche that you can now buy waterproof books and books shaped like toilets. And, as George Costanza said on “Seinfeld” when he was forced to buy a book he had taken into a bookstore bathroom, “I got news for you — if it wasn’t for the toilet, there would be no books.”
Alford says that when he redecorated his bathroom recently, he put 42 books on top of the toilet tank ... for aesthetic purposes.

I admire those folks, unfortunately few and far between, who have a library in their loo. I loved staying with my friends Jean and Barry in Plymouth because every room was full of books - including the smallest rooms which were equipped with bookshelves and magazine racks. The his and hers bathroom had a slightly different selection, and I think I enjoyed all the puzzle and crossword books in his best.

I'm a bathroom reader, but generally have only magazines in there. (Colour supplements from the British Sunday papers are best. I've asked my sister to bring me a stack even though I can read the same stuff online.) Sometimes poetry or short short fiction.

So now it's your turn. What's your bathroom reading material?

(Above right, a booklovers dream loo. Or should we call it a bibliobog?)

17 comments:

Ted Mahsun said...

I read video game magazines in the loo. No books in the toilet for me. Too wet.

The Eternal Wanderer said...

LOL! A mini-library in the loo! Talk about space and time management! Good place to add shelves!

I agree with Ted, no books for me in the loo, too! It's mostly newpapers, magazines and comics that I read in the loo. It's hard to hold books with one hand while pinching my nose with the other!

LOL!

lil ms d said...

aiyohhhhh! :)

only magazines for me. if i read books, i might end up constipated. you know, getting caught up in the story, with the plot and all that.

but i swear, NW - v v trashy ozzie celeb mag - is fantastic reading while on the bog.

Anonymous said...

Have big pile of boox.. is good. Plus toilet is dry (can't stand wet toilets) so can read. Also have laptop + wireless so online in toilet is possible. :)

madcap machinist said...

My books travel in a roundabout in my room: from shelf to bed to desk to dresser to (on top of) TV to the bathroom, back to the shelf and repeat.

It would be cool to have bookshelves in the loo like in the pic, Sharon! LOL... but the dampness will kill them. I just have a small table and pile them books on it.

Right now I have The Cyborg Handbook (an anthology of academic writing exploring the relationship of man and technology) edited by Chris Hables Gray, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (great to start a day with), a collection of short science fiction by Greg Bear, and Okot p'Bitek's Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol.

Reading on the potty is common enough I suppose. My question is, is there anyone who writes in the loo, as the urge strikes when nature calls?

anon: Bringing your laptop to the toilet?! Waaaa... doesn't it get too hot on your lap?

Glenda Larke said...

Madcap machinist - what are towels for, then, if not to put on your lap while...? Lol! No, I can't say I take my laptop into the loo. But there's always a book or magazine, which usually stays there until I finish it.

And roman loos - those in public buildings anyway - were hardly private places...the holes were all lined up in a single row ('ve actually seen marble ones somewhere). Water in a stone gutter ran underneath. Must have been b. cold in winter.

starlight said...

i always use the guest bathroom in my apartment because it's dry and i can pop my reading material in the shower area while i 'wash up'. :)
i usually read magazines in the loos - feel less guilty about putting it on the floor.
and if inspiration strikes in there, i just keep repeating the idea or sentence aloud until i can finally write it down!

MAHARAJADHIRAJ said...

I mostly do haikus on toilet roll... but since most of it is eminently disposable... it becomes asswipe straight away :)

CW said...

Great topic! :) We have a stack of New Scientist, New Internationalist, and National Geographic magazines in our dunny. Also Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, the Gregory Hays translation - very readable.

The Visitor said...

doctor's advice: never ever read on the toilet. never spend more than five to eight minutes there. you run the risk of getting PILES!

i'm not making this up.

madcap machinist said...

Glenda: I wonder what sort of conversations go down in public toilets in R
ome...

lil ms d said...

visitor! on the contrary! i find that reading trashy magazines help with constipation!

animah said...

Vogue Living and Elle Decor.

Sham said...

newspapers, new scientist, nature, whichever book is my current bookclub read :)

Anonymous said...

Doctors always spoil your fun. They're right of course. Everything needs fixing now cos I've abused everything.. but wow it was fun :) anyway we aint gonna last forever so what's the point of a healthy corpse ? :)

I don't put the laptop on my lap.. I put it on the floor.. then I bend over and type :)

Anonymous said...

OMG.. Imagine The Great Malaysian Bathroom Book :)

Madcap Machinist said...

Time to update that pic! http://www.thisisbroken.com/b/2007/02/home_depot_libr.html