To Mistake a Classic for Erotica
They both savored the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were only ignorant of ordinary things ~ Terry Pratchett
“It’s not his hobby, Sister Madly.”
He just said that he loves his job, Professor, and when you love your job, you don’t work a day in your life. By this definition, it IS his hobby.
Now, Sister Madly has always been wary of anyone the Professors call a ‘friend’ and this time, she had good reason to be: he was chatty and he was happy. Too happy. Frolicking with the tumbleweed happy- and all without a nip of cider. That’s what makes it sinister- that, and the maniacal good cheer with which he announced that he was a phlebotomist.*
*In layman’s terms, a giant mosquito.
Then again, perhaps that is the secret to his sinister happiness: draining a large portion of his blood to the point of mental absurdity in the name of good times. Or perhaps he gets his jollies by mixing blood types like some gruesome, vascular cocktail. Whatever his secret, this psychotic bliss was reinforced later that night simply by coming upon Sister Madly’s copy of Maugham’s Of Human Bondage.
“You like this sort of thing, do you?”
She couldn’t help but wonder what, exactly, the Happy Phlebotomist meant by ‘this sort of thing.’ True, it wasn’t the sort of book her mother would read to a young Sister Madly while they shared a bottle of TAB, but her mother wasn’t one to read her The Runaway Bunny either. Perhaps the Happy Phlebotomist didn’t much care for the author, or perhaps it was the implication that Sister Madly likes to read books out of season. Of Human Bondage always seemed like a book one reads in the winter.
Of course it is possible to read any book at any time of the year, but unless you are some sort of literary rogue, here is a small sample of the appropriate seasonal fare:
– A Confederacy of Dunces
– Bonjour Tristesse
– The Magus
– The Picture of Dorian Gray
– Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky
– The Moon and Sixpence
– Three Men in a Boat
While the Happy Phlebotomist found this ‘seasonal reading’ slightly baffling, he was a sight more tolerant than the Professors were upon learning that Sister Madly arranges her DVDs according to ambiance instead of alphabetically. She doesn’t understand all the fuss- after all, she knows where to find everything. That’s all that really matters.*
*There are also many people who listen to music according to season- her neighbors, for example. They always listen to Christmas music in the winter. Loudly.
Not that the Professors should cast any stones. Sister Madly has not only seen them eat lettuce, she has seen them enjoy the process– a sure sign that something is not quite right in the head.
Now over the course of her acquaintance with the Professors, they have taken it upon themselves to lend her books that they think she should read, rather than books they think she would enjoy. So it was something of a shock when the Happy Phlebotomist approached her with a copy of The Story of O, for no reason other than “you seem to like this sort of thing.”
And by ‘this sort of thing,’ the Happy Phlebotomist meant erotic literature.
“Since you were reading that book on human bondage…”
Perhaps Sister Madly is just naïve- or perhaps it’s because her hobby isn’t the gleeful draining of blood out of living individuals- but the possibility of Of Human Bondage being some sort of literary porn never once crossed her mind the day she found it in the bookstore. She was just intrigued by a book whose title started with the word ‘Of.’
According to the obligatory new book flip-thru (and later confirmed through the internet) The Story of O was originally published in the 1950‘s and was somewhat influenced by the works of the Marquis de Sade- which is a far, far cry from the themes found in Of Human Bondage.
You see, the title Of Human Bondage is taken from Part IV of Spinoza’s Ethics, entitled “Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of Emotions” in which Spinoza speaks of people’s inability to control their emotions (the emotions themselves, not one’s conscious response to them) which constitutes bondage. The crux of Maugham’s story is the unrequited love of Philip Carey, which binds him to a rather disagreeable* woman- soul ties, and all that.
*Status-seeking, social-climbing, cold-hearted, unfaithful waitress-turned-mistress-turned-hooker-who-contracts-an-STD-most-likely-syphilis type of disagreeable.
Also, she was rude.
“So it’s about human trafficking?”
Perhaps it was fatigue from reading veins all day, or perhaps it was too much vascular cocktail, but it was obvious that the Happy Phlebotomist was determined not to understand a single word of their conversation. No wonder the Professors were so fond of him.
And so she was about to suggest a book that would do away with his starry-eyed disposition, The Runaway Bunny, as even adults have been known to cry at that story…
… when the Professors interrupted by sending a drink over to her table.
A Bloody Mary.
THEME SONG: Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2