Last night at the Crippled Bee, Jean-Pierre Sertin leant over a sleeping man to ask me this:
‘I’ve been thinking, Georgy, about your post on tears. And what I’ve been thinking is this: how do you tell a tear stain from a bath water stain in a second-hand book?’
‘Talent, mostly,’ I reply, ‘which is to say that one trains oneself to spot such things. Tear stains, bath water stains, mineral water stains, vodka stains, rain stains: they may all look very similar, but any reader worth their lacrimal salt can tell them apart. I like to think that a tear stain softens a page; that it imbues that page with the emotion of the weeping reader. A rain stain, on the other hand, has a melancholy effect on a page. One can almost hear the pitter patter of the raindrops in the margins’.
Five minutes later Sertin turns to me again and says:
‘Incidentally, what are your views on reading in the bath?’
‘I’m up for it,’ I admit, ‘as I am for reading in any environment, although I don’t recommend dropping books in soapy water. It makes the pages stick together. If you can get your hands on a laminated book, however, there’s no need to fear’
‘Or,’ added Sertin, ‘if you can get your hands on one of Tosca Calbirro’s shower curtains‘