You have probably noticed the tagline for this blogsite, in the upper right corner. The book I dropped in the tub was a hardcover copy of Graham Greene’s Travels with My Aunt. It was 1970 and I was working on a publishing-apprentice’s salary. (Can you say secretary?) If recollection serves, I was making $6900/year. So, you can imagine—a hardcover book was worth its weight in gold. This particular gold brick had been lent to me by a mentoring editor in the department.
Fully conscious of the careful handling required, I had to learn the hard way that you don’t read a hardcover book in the bathtub. I wasn’t even in the tub, but leaning over to check on the temperature before getting in. I knocked the book from its resting spot on the edge. My reflexes were excellent and I scooped that baby out of there in a split second, but the book was extremely absorbent and had picked up an amazing amount of moisture during its brief stay. It was half again as thick as it had been, and the pale lavender cover had bleached a bit over two-thirds of the front. Mouth-to-spine respiration wasn’t going to work.
I looked at the warped, thickened mess and my heart sank. I knew I’d have to pay for what I’d done. I also knew my colleague wouldn’t allow me to, so I didn’t tell him before I went out and bought a replacement copy. When I handed the book over, we talked about what we liked in our now shared reading experience. At the end of the chat, I told him the book he was holding had never been opened, and what had happened. He laughed and said all the right things about how I shouldn’t have felt obligated to buy the replacement, but I could tell he was happy to have it.
The damaged copy of Travels with My Aunt graced my bookshelf for many years, but I always got a little depressed every time I noticed it there. The feeling was a mixture of guilt and sadness, and there was an accusatory aspect. I can’t really remember what I finally did with that ravaged copy. Probably I lent it to someone and asked that it not be returned to me. I still will read in the tub, but just a paperback and preferably mass-market. Haven’t tried it yet with my Kindle.