Variation on a Theme

“I’m back.”

“Oh, good.  …good Lord.”


“Nothing, just – I’m sorry, how many bags of books do you have there?  I thought you said you were going off to read, not raid a bookstore.”

“It wasn’t a bookstore.  It was the library.”

And there wasn't a book sale. I didn't even get that many new requests. This was just me cleaning out my car.

And there wasn’t a book sale. I didn’t even get that many new requests. This was just me cleaning out my car.

“Oh.  I’d thought maybe a coffee shop…?”

“No, coffee shops are full of people buying coffee and chatting over their tea and – and then there’s the pressure to earn your seat by buying more coffee, which I don’t need.  Bookstores have no BYOB policy and in fact discourage bringing your own book….whereas the library has a fine parking lot, and a quiet table inside.”

“Sorry – what, exactly, does the parking lot have to do with anything?”

“Oh!  Well, on a fine evening like this, you can read in your car.  More airflow than indoors, and there was at least an hour of light.  And then inside for another hour and change.  I almost finished off that volume of Milosz, finally.”

“Seems a shame to read so fast instead of lingering over the words.  You can’t get as much out of it.”

Quirk of a bemused eyebrow.  “Is that how you always read?  Lingeringly?”

“Well, yeah.  More or less, depending on the book.”

“Tell me: do you always sip daintily at every glass of water?”  A blank look in response.  “Do you always, always let your beer or wine set for five whole seconds on your tongue before you swallow it?”  Sheepish shifting of feet, eyes drifting to the floor.  “Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Sure, maybe I don’t remember as much of it as you do, or as much as I’d like to recall – but good God, man, sometimes it’s sweltering out and you’re sweating too hard to do anything but gulp.  Sometimes you’re too caught up in conversation to attend so studiously to your beverage.  And that’s all for the best, honestly – drinks go with your food and conversation, not the other way ’round.”

“But contemplating words makes a good deal more sense than contemplating wine.”

“Not all words.  And, for that matter, not all wines, either.”

4 thoughts on “Variation on a Theme

  1. Lol!
    Being dyslexic means reading slowly. Always. Sometimes it is torture, like in reading a dull textbook, or Lord of the Flies. Oftentimes, though, it’s like savoring chocolate or soaking in woodland smells. But to read swiftly is, for me, to read awry. It makes me choose my reading with excruciating care, too.

    • That is fair enough! I have a brother whose dyslexia prompts him to listen to a lot of audio books. Their slower speed makes me champ at the bit, but probably also accounts for how much better he remembers his reading than I do mine.

      Lord of the Flies was torturous for you? Alas! Was that due to the prose itself or the subject matter?

      • I love audio-books too! And my memory for the words that I read is also quite good, probably due to the slowness. ^_^ I am re-listening to Chesterton’s Orthodoxy right now (yay free trial of Audible!) and I actually created an audiobook of The Ballad of the White Horse for my mother (and myself). I’m currently trying to create a version of The Princess and the Goblin for my nephew.

        …I have this double-edged sword. I see or read about something happening and my brain makes the immediate connection of “that would feel like this.” …which leads me to be curled up in a ball quite frequently (just last night, actually), but also helps me empathize with real people. It takes serious effort for me to disassociate fiction from reality in this regard. I can steel myself somewhat with, say, action films, but I still have to be very careful about the level of violence I take in.

        When I am reading, I am that much deeper in the story and the imagery, and therefore that much more attuned to what’s happening. Now imagine what it would be like reading Lord of the Flies with that kind of sensitivity and you’ll see why I hate it to this day. :/
        The one startlingly clear image I retain from reading that book is the death of Piggy, with all the attendant nearly-physical pain with which I first read it. I also remember the starvation and abandonment and fear of the smallest boys. I read the book only once, and that was at least twenty years ago.

        I know violence in fiction serves a very important purpose. I use it in my own writing. I understand what Golding was doing with Lord of the Flies, what he was exploring, what he was saying about humanity, the preconceptions in his society that he wanted to challenge, and why he needed to do it in the way that he did. I am glad, theoretically, that the book exists …and I would rather dip my hands in scalding wax than ever read it again. 😉

  2. I guess what I am saying is that there are levels and types of violence in fiction that may serve to create a necessary impact on some, or even most readers, but that may overwhelm the purpose of the story to others. Just as a light might illuminate a room to one person, and completely blind someone with more light sensitivity. Golding effectively blinded me. All points of his story cease to matter to me, as they’re cast into deep shadow by the general suffering, and that blinding act of violence.

    Also, interestingly enough, I handle my own pain relatively well and when others are in pain and I can do something about it I seem to be functional (though I am sure I am NOT cut out for a medical profession). It’s pain I cannot mitigate, whether fictional or real, that incapacitates me.

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