“A. Room. Of. One’s? Own,”* the younger read haltingly.
“A room of one’s own,” she repeated.
“Yes, that’s right!” I said.
“But what does that mean?” she asked. “‘One’s own.’ Is that like at Dad’s house?”
It took me a second to reply because I instinctively bristled at the idea that “a room of one’s own” existed “at Dad’s house” but not at my house (I’m a Girtonion, for goodness’ sake! Woolf gave the lectures on which that essay is based at Girton!); but then I got it: of course, at their Dad’s house the children each have their own room; at my house they share one.
“Well …. yes,” I acknowledged, sheepishly. “Yes, like at Dad’s house. It means having your own room.”
“But why does it say that?”
“Well, it’s the title of a book. All these mugs, the words they have on them are book titles … and the mug is designed to look like the book cover. They are all books published by a company called “Penguin Books” and that’s why there’s this little penguin at the bottom.”
“I think we have some books at school with that penguin.”
“Yes, you probably do … and I have loads of Penguin books.”
“Why is it called ‘Penguin Books’?”
“Well … I don’t know, actually. I suppose whoever started the company liked penguins? Or …. maybe—but this seems unlikely—maybe the company was started by someone whose name was penguin? Mr or Mrs Penguin?”
“Or maybe …..” the younger said, in a mysterious tone.
“Maybe it was started by a penguin.”
“You know, I honestly never considered that possibility until this very moment,” I say quite truthfully.
“Penguins are very intelligent,” she says authoritatively.
We have been watching a lot of Planet Earth recently.
“Are they?” I say.
“Yes,” she says. “But not as intelligent as dolphins.”
“Huh,” I say. “So it would be more likely to have been started by a dolphin.”
“A dolphin pretending to be a penguin?” she suggests, scrunching up her face the way she does when she’s really puzzling something out.
“Well, it’s a possibility,” I say, feeling that we are on the brink of unraveling a massive, decades-long, inter-species publishing conspiracy.
* Helen, I wrote this post several months ago and totally forgot about it; your mentioning A Room of One’s Own the other night reminded me of it, so I went rooting around in my giant Tupperware drawer of unposted blogs, and eventually found it at the bottom of the drawer … xoxo