The Literary Importance of Taking a Bath

Mikaella Clements at the TLS:

Baths are very comforting: gentler, calmer than showers. The slow clean. For a while, though, across a patch of nervous books in the mid-twentieth century, baths were troublesome. They were prone to intrusion and disorder. They were too hot, too small, too crowded with litanies of junk: newspapers, cigarettes, alcohol, razors.

Part of the dream of a good bath is its isolation. If someone else does arrive, you can hope that the intrusion is at the very least a sexy one. Hedger and Eden in Willa Cather’s Coming, Aphrodite live in the same apartment block and meet just outside the communal bathroom, but it’s not quite the sensual interaction one might aspire to: “I’ve found his hair in the tub, and I’ve smelled a doggy smell, and now I’ve caught you at it. It’s an outrage!” says Eden, realizing that Hedger washes his English bulldog in their shared tub.

more here.