I like a living space with contemporary and Spartan design but I know it will be difficult to keep such a place neat and tidy. My study room (formerly my daughters’ study room) is chaotic as there are stacks of books everywhere. A couple of weeks ago, there was a book sale and my family ended up buying more than a dozen books and they are now occupying space on my writing desk which was formerly my daughters’ writing desk when they were in school.
I have read about espresso book machine that print books on demand. How does it feel to walk into a book shop where you do not see books? It is always a pleasure to meet book lovers as only book lovers know how it feels to hold a printed book and run their fingers over the pages as their eyes devour the writings.
During the recent book sale, I picked up the debut novel written by Will Wiles. Care of Wooden Floors is not a manual for caring of the wooden floors but a satire. As the description on the back cover aptly describes : ‘Care of Wooden Floors is about loneliness, friendship and the quest for, and struggle against, perfection. And it is , a little , about how to take care of wooden floors.’
The unnamed protagonist, a freelance copywriter from London has been asked by Oskar, an old university friend to housesit his nice and pristine flat which is located in an unspecified part of Eastern Europe. The story is narrated by the unnamed protagonist in first person’s voice. Oskar is a minimalist composer who has to be away in Los Angeles to deal with his divorce. Oskar is a “borderline obsessive- compulsive” and despite having left very specific instructions on numerous notes throughout the flat to instruct the narrator about how to care about his cats and the expensive French oak floors, the narrator spills red wine on the floor and in trying to salvage the damage, the result is disastrous. From the beginning, you could smell something catastrophic particularly after reading about Oskar’s four A 4 pages long of instructions, one of them being ‘DO NOT put any drinks on them without a coaster’ and ‘ If anything should spill, you MUST wipe it up AT ONCE!!! So that it does not stain the wood. Be VERY CAREFUL. But if there is an accident (!) then there is a book on the architecture shelf that might help you . CALL ME if something happens.’
On Day Two, the narrator discovers a wine stain.
The narrator immediately runs a dish cloth under the tap starts to rub and scrubbing
‘There was still a mark. The slightest, faintest curved, blush, hardly noticeable in the natural grain of the wood. A birthmark awaiting its final laser treatment. But now my eye was unstoppably drawn to it – as if was as large, as black, as inescapable as the sofa.’
Over a period of eight days, the narrator proves to be an unreliable house-sitter. On day five, one of Oskar’s cats has been killed by the piano lid that was left open when the narrator had forgotten to close the top of the piano after having it propped up. He recalled that he had disobeyed Oskar’s note “ Please do NOT play with the piano” and as he fiddled with piano keys, hit a key, the phone rang. The phone call was from Oskar and after he hanged up, he completely forgot about the piano.
‘ The piano lid had dropped onto the cat, breaking its spine. So the piano had been open – I had left it open. The cat must have jumped up and dislodged the strut that held up the lid;may be it had stood on the edge, rubbing against the strut. The caricature drunk supporting himself on a lamp post . Slam. Had it been quick? There was no blood on the outside, no scratch marks. The body would have to be moved, I thought. I made a mental edit :I would have to move the body. It could hardly be left like this . But where? ’
The humour is wry and dark. The writing is contemporary and stylish. Will Wiles writes about the scene after the protagonist spent a late night with Oskar’s colleague:
White noise. Indistinct sound, beneath hearing, the growl and whoosh of blood forcing through tight passages. A two-part beat, the slave-driver’s padded drumsticks rising and falling as an exhausted muscle trireme heaves across a treacle ocean. A heart, pumping hot, thick goo in place of blood. Cells striving and dying. The electricity of the brain whining like an insectocutor. A cascade of neural sparks, an ascending, crackling chain reaction, synapses firing. Sensation – the sensation of no sensation. Then, awareness.’