Monday, October 27, 2008

Tiling a bathroom with Fyodor Dostoevsky


I don't write novels. Dostoevsky didn't write home repair manuals. There are good reasons for both. Neither of us felt compelled to state our reasons. Thankfully, Mark Crick has pretty much taken care of it for both of us.

This morning's Independent includes excerpts from Crick's latest book, Sartre's Sink. It's a DIY manual written in the voice of characters from famous novels. I highly recommend you check out the article in the Independent.

I found the item titled "Tiling a bathroom with Fyodor Dostoevsky" particularly compelling. Somehow, it magaged to capture precisely how I felt the first time I tore out old tile (mind you, I wasn't using stolen tools...borrowed, perhaps, but not stolen).

Herewith, a very short excerpt:

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Tiling a bathroom with Fyodor Dostoevsky

Tools: Hammer, Spirit level, Scraper, Tile cutter, Sponge, Wooden batten, Tape measure, Dust sheet

Materials: Tiles, Spacers, Tile adhesive, Tile grout

For the first time, Pokoroff now opened the bag of tools he had stolen from the tool shed at the back of his lodgings and cast on its aged contents a look of flashing rage. "To think that I have been such a fool," he muttered. He saw now that the bag contained not the tools of his landlady, but those of her gardener. "This is exactly the sort of trifle that could spoil everything."

Feeling crushed, nay humiliated, he caught up the gardener's sickle and plunged its rusty blade behind the tiles above the sink. Long age and humidity had weakened the glue that held them in place so that they easily came away, crashing into the sink and shattering with a great noise. Their removal revealed an ugly rectangular patch of ridged and hardened adhesive. Pokoroff scraped at this in an attempt to render the surface smooth, but the glue, so ineffective at holding the tiles in place, showed more resistance at clinging to the wall. Using a stabbing action the worker saw that little chips of the adhesive broke off, occasionally flying into his face, and in this way he gradually succeeded in levelling the most irregular ridges.

The old woman, as is the way with old women who leave nothing to chance, had left a sack for rubbish and Pokoroff now began filling it with the debris. The jagged edges of the broken tiles were sharp and when he saw that a crack had appeared on the surface of the basin, he flew into a rage. How could he have been so unthinking? He might easily have placed some covering over the basin to cushion the fall of the tiles. With bitter disgust he saw that he had also managed to cut himself and that blood was dripping from his hand. It had already splashed his shoes and the floor before he thought to hold the wound over the open refuse bag. The thick red liquid dripped onto the broken tiles where the drops stained their white surface red. He grew light-headed and for a moment it seemed to him that the tiles were smiling at this benediction, until he realised that this was no chimera. Half buried in the detritus, the widow's false teeth came as a disagreeable surprise. In his haste he had forgotten to clear the room. "Details, details," he murmured and, looking up, he saw the remains of the glass that had held the teeth mingling with the broken tiles in the sink. Reluctantly he recovered the gory teeth and dropped them into his pocket. He then wrapped his injured hand with a rag and watched as the white fabric turned red.

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1 comment:

David Leach said...

Dostoevsky never wrote DIY books? I thought that's what *The Idiot* was all about! Maybe I could borrow that title if I decide to write a book about my own reno experiences...