Books And Fireworks

Have you noticed?  Books are subtle.

Books—and I’m speaking here mostly of novels—don’t come with fireworks.  They don’t come with bands or loud music or spectacular displays or shouting pitchmen.  Granted, a few may be launched by someone giving a fiery speech, especially a political tell-all book by an author with a story to tell or an ax to grind.  In the vast majority of cases, novels are launched with only an announcement and perhaps a short, subdued speech by the author.

But it’s within the book I want to concentrate.  Books are more like symphony orchestras.  You attend a concert by your favorite symphony and they perform and that’s it.  There’s no fireworks display, no yelling, no screaming fans.  The music can get loud, sure, but it’s a controlled, unchaotic loudness.  It’s written into the music.  You rely on the composer to decide what’s loud and what’s soft.  Like Beethoven or Tchaikovsky.  The conductor bows at the end of the concert, and you file out.  All you need to know about the music is contained within.  (I did once attend the Santa Fe Opera to see La Boheme, I believe, where they shot off one rocket, but that was all.  They could do it because the Santa Fe Opera is outdoors.)

So it is with a novel.  Most novels start slowly and build.  But it’s a controlled build, it takes you along smoothly and carefully, and gives you the information you need to digest the plot.  It doesn’t yell at you.  It isn’t a riotous, turbulent display of loud noise and flashing lights and lasers and mirrors.  You don’t have a drummer behind you with an exaggerated sense of his/her importance.  The book is an entity all to itself.  All you need to know is built right into the book.  You don’t need outside or extraneous fireworks to digest the story.  A book is not spectacular; it quietly goes about its business delivering the message one word at a time.  You don’t read a book, you curl up with it.

As I write this, someone in an apartment nearby is playing rock music loud enough to be heard through the walls and floor or ceiling of my apartment.  I feel sorry for someone who has to get his/her stimulation by been bombarded by loud music.  Turn off the stereo or TV and read a book.


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