The feel of a book

I know it’s been a while since my last post – apologies. Tomorrow is the big day for me (following that post about my kidneys) – tomorrow I go in to see a kidney specialist. Nothing may come of this visit except more tests; or I could be facing a new diet, lifestyle, tests, who knows. I don’t. I find that a bit scary, to be honest. I sometimes like writing creature feature stories, even a little horror on occasion, but nothing is as frightening as an unknown visit with a specialist. Pretty sure Stephen King tried to capture that once or twice, most recently with Doctor Sleep.

Needless to say, being able to focus on my writing hasn’t been a thing the last few weeks. I’m too distracted by real world concerns to focus like I should. I feel guilty about it, but mostly because I know I have half worked pieces that need finishing, stories to share, and feedback to gather.

What have I been doing to fill the void and distract me? Reading.

“But you’re always doing that,” you might say, and you’d be half right. What makes this reading a bit different is that they have all been physical, paper in hand books. Late last year I went through a phase where I stopped myself from buying new digital books and focused on decluttering my digital to-read pile. While there are still books in that pile, largely guides to writing, the fiction half is just about done. Most of what remains are one-offs that I grabbed because (frankly) they were a dollar on special and I knew the day would come when I would need something to read.

But starting this month, I’ve been working on reading actual paper books. You might say it’s become somewhat of an obsession. I’ve read five books so far and started or sampled three others. I don’t remember having this super power in the past, but something about reading the paper edition is easier on my brain. My eyes have to strain more than with digital – no easy font adjustment here! – but I’m ripping through books at a rate that is surprising even to me.

As I read, I am reminded of something I’ve never really discussed with anyone before. I’m reminded that some books have a taste in my mind. I won’t claim its synesthesia, but there are certain flavors to books. A fun, quick to read space opera will have a completely different flavor in my mind than deep epic fantasy. In fact, it’s often this mental taste I’m after when I’m “in the mood” to read something. Sometimes I’m looking for the taste of a romp with ancient, forgotten alien civilisations. Sometimes I’m in the mood to follow an epic quest. Each one tastes different to me, resonates differently in my head. They have a different flavor in my mind.

And what, pray tell, brought this up? This week I acquired Tad Williams’ Shadowmarch quadrilogy (tetralogy? The verdict seems to be out on what a group of 4 books should be called.). I think I might have read book one before, but it’s been a long time, and I know I never read the sequels. What struck me as I started the first book is the thickness of the book mentally.

I am, admittedly, a horrible speed reader. They say the secret to reading faster is to look at the words, not subvocalize them. I’ve played with that approach, and it’s true, it’s quicker, but I have a deeper resonance with a book when I’ve recited it in my head. Given how fast I read books as it is, my inner voice must talk a mile a minute. Books like Shadowmarch aren’t high literature by any means (sorry, Tad!), but they have a brooding sense where I find myself reading each passage slowly and with attention. Tad likes to throw hints and subtle clues in the most innocuous places, so reading one of his books should be done with due diligence. To these kinds of books, my mind assigns a taste of deep and thick. I don’t know how else to describe them. Space operas, my other favorite examples, have a jumpy, springy feel in my head. Which makes using the word flavor to describe them wrong too, come to think of it, but it’s the best word I have for it.

Anyone else feel that way about books?