The toilet is inherently a place for words. It demands gymnastics of the linguistic, as well as the bowel. Hence the many names for it: from the regal (the throne) to the outright scatological (the crapper).
So it has always struck me as strange why someone reading whilst on the loo provokes such disgust in so many people. Surely it is the equivalent of someone bringing a written offering into the temple of verbosity.
The Guardian reported on this last week, citing a two-year old piece of research from Israel that proves, once and for all, that reading on the bog is not unhygienic. The report discovered, unsurprisingly, that the majority of men (64%) indulged in a bit of literature on the loo. Only 41% of women admitted doing likewise.
This, of course, is a total lie. Everyone does it. Which is why any disgust directed towards people who shamelessly saunter off to the john with a book in hand is akin to gay-bashing preachers with a predilection for male prostitutes.
When was the last time you were in a domestic dunny and there was nothing to read? We are all slowly, but very surely, coming out of the water closet. But we still have far to go, brothers and sisters. After acceptance, the next mountain to climb is improving the books.
This is a serious issue, brought home in an episode last year. In December a house guest got locked in my bathroom. For eight hours. He kept himself warm by taking showers. Sadly boredom was harder to keep at bay.
The only books I had on offer was several copies of Matt Groening’s Life Is Hell and a slight volume called You Know You Were A Child of The 1980s When... Now, if my friend sees any pictures of badly drawn rabbits or Adam Ant a nervous tick kicks in. Poor guy. It was my fault, of course.
I too had treated reading on the khazi as an embarrassment, something that could only be acknowledged by books meant as a joke. But why not embrace it, accept it as a normal part of life?
Why not have Ulysses on hand? Or Infinite Jest? Or the poetry of Frank O’Hara? Volumes that can provoke enlightenment in those moments when one lightens one’s load. Any other suggestions of perfect reads for the can are welcome. The great lavatorial library awaits to be filled.