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Monday, February 11, 2013

Care of Woden Floors

Care of Wooden Floors caught by eye on the new books shelf at the library.  This first novel by London architect Will Wiles begins with the very sentiment I had after I put down a wooden floor in my apartment: PLEASE YOU MUST TAKE CARE OF THE WOODEN FLOORS. This sentence was placed in the middle of a very lengthy (4 A4 pages) letter written by the owner of the apartment, Oskar, to his former college roommate who will stay in the former communist city flat to write a novel while Oskar is in LA working on his divorce. Oskar, a musician, is very anal about things and uses notes to communicate with those who share his living spaces, college and the flat. The wooden floors provide two delightful scenes in the very first day. The two cats living with Oskar have figured out the glide of these floors and the current resident also tries his luck with gliding only to injure himself. Of course, the guest leaves a red wine stain on the floor near the sofa on which the cats are not allowed, but always seem to be found, he has fallen asleep. He becomes obsessed with this stain and its eradication. It has become like Poe’s classic “Tell Tale Heart.”

Wiles weaves an entertaining tale as the narrator informs us of his and Oskar’s college days woven into his daily touring and obsessing over the stain. These two are opposites. A series of cascading accidents take over the plot as Oskar’s friend has stumbled into his own little hell. I was reminded of an incident that occurred to me a quarter of a century ago or more. I was at a party in NYC. The house was like Oskar’s, but instead of wooden floors this house has plush white rugs and furniture, perhaps an Iranian as described early in Wiles novel about Iranian jails. Anyway, I spilled a glass of red wine on the white rug. Immediately a woman grabbed a glass of white wine and poured it on the red wine spill and used a cloth napkin to soak it up. With more white wine and more napkins the red stain was gone. She was a flight attendant and explained the science behind her actions of using white wine to extract the red wine from the carpet. A trick she learned for passengers who spilled red wine on themselves on first class cross continental flights. Oskar’s friend may have been wise to also buy some white wine, although Oskar did leave the red wine for his guest.

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