Domesticity Doesn't Suit Me, and nor Does Wearing Trousers
Lezard, Nicholas, New Statesman (1996)
I am wandering around the Hovel, looking for a book. This would be fine if it were a simple matter offinding any old book, just some reading matter in the form of a book to pass the time; but it is not any old book I want, it is a very specific book: the one I agreed to review last week, which I have not yet picked up, and which - because I am old-fashioned like this - I think it would he a good idea to read before pas sing judgement on it.
Where does one hide a leaf? In a forest. (Although why anyone would want to hide a leaf in the first place is beyond me. They are of scant value.) And where doe s one hide a book? In the Hovel.
Despite increasingly frequent clear-outs, the books continue to multiply; indeed, rather as shaving more often is said to increase the vigour and purpose of one's stubble, so hauling off boxes to Oxfam seems to make more of them come through the letter box.
About twice a week, the postman, whose sad eyes carry a message of eloquent rebuke about them, rings the bell and hands over a heaving sack of the things.
So the one I want nestles under any one of about two dozen totering Matterhorns of books and what I will have to do is ring either the publisher or the newspaper to send me a replacement and then, shortly after it arrives, I will find the original, usually in plain view, in a place I could have sworn I'd searched several times already. This is the kind of thing that makes me suspect that books have finally achieved sentience and can actually hide themselves, snickering quietly like kids playing hide-and-seek, while I thrash around the place in my underpants, going progressively crazy until I find myself actually calling out for them by name. A Kindle, someone suggests. No: the books would gang up and eat it.
This is what happens when one is left to one's own devices, though. There has been an interregnum since Laurie's departure for New York and during the day I am the Hovel's sole occupant. I am accountable to no one but myself. The keyword in the last paragraph, you will have noticed, is "underpants". What is the point, I ask myself, of wearing out a perfectly good pair of trousers when one can saunter freely about the place in one's gunties? …