Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Nerd Alert: On Flannery's Toilet

This post is my entry in the Book Nerd Out giveaway hosted by Book Riot: Reviews, Recommendations, and Commentary about books and reading (but, you know, fun).

My zenith of book nerdiness surely came in those minutes I sat on Flannery O’Connor’s toilet.

Blame it on the Chinese food.  For weeks, I'd looked forward to this moment: the day I would first set foot inside Flannery’s childhood home.  I'd Googled, I'd Mapquested, I'd made dry runs on the route through southern Georgia, I'd Wise Blood-ed myself to death.  But now something stood in the way of Complete Flannery Fulfillment: the Chinese food.

Two hours before our arrival in downtown Savannah, my wife and I stopped for a quick meal of meat, vegetables and MSG.  The food was good and quickly settled into our stomachs.  In my case, it also traveled farther south at an alarming pace.

By the time we approached the O'Connor Childhood Home, I was walking funny.  My wife took one look at my grimacing face and said, "You're kidding, right?"

I shook my head.

She sighed.  "You couldn't have taken care of this when we stopped for gas thirty minutes ago?"

"It wasn't an issue at that point."

"We can always turn around and come back another day."

“No, not another day.”

I'm sure my wife was more than a little concerned by the hypno-spiral look in my eyes, the fevery knit of my brows, the high squeak of my voice when I talked about making this pilgrimage to the home of my idol.

When we reached the former residence of the O'Connor family and I climbed the steep stone staircase, I knew what Dorothy and her friends must have felt when they topped that rise in the poppy field and saw jutting before them the emerald shards of the City of Oz.  I was here, I was really here.  I was about to walk where Flannery once walked.  What would I say?  What would I do?  How would I greet the particles of her ghost that still filtered like motes through the air of the house?

I opened the door and grinned sheepishly at the docent there to greet us.  "Can I use your bathroom, sir?"

He pointed to the back of the house and I waddle-limped down the hallway.  I closed the door on the closet-sized bathroom, dropped my pants, and did my business (or, as Flannery would say, “bidness”).

As I sat there, all I could think was: "I am sitting in Flannery O'Connor's bathroom!"  Had her hindquarters once rested where mine now did?  Had she sat here as a child, reading books?

Even after taking a closer look at my surroundings and noting the chrome handle on the toilet and the post-1980 architecture of the tank, I couldn't be talked out of my new, trans-century connection to my literary heroine.

I washed my hands (IN FLANNERY'S SINK!), dried them (ON FLANNERY'S TOWELS!), then rejoined our tour group, feeling like a complete and utter book nerd.  But a happy, fulfilled nerd.

And what about you?  What was your height (or depth) of literary fanaticism?

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