I was going to talk about agents today. I was going to whine and complain about how condescending they sometimes seem and how that sometimes it feels like they view us authors as tiny little word machines whose only purpose in life is to churn out predictable and easily classified stories for them to put next to other predictable and easily classified stories for the easy sale.
But you know what? Forget about that. Just because I got all riled up last week because of some agent’s condescending blog post doesn’t mean I need to transfer all that frustration to you. So instead I’m gonna talk about smells.
Huh. That sounded kinda wrong. How about scents? “I’m gonna talk about scents” sounds better right?
Specifically I’m talking about the smells of books. Have you ever smelled a book? Ever stuck your nose in its pages and breathed in its essence?
Oh. Well, maybe I’m the only one then. That would certainly explain all the strange looks I get at the bookstore.
But I’ve noticed that each one is unique. Each book carries it’s own special perfume. Sometimes its a subtle smell, a whiff of ink and glue and the crisp perfume of clean paper. But other times it’s a stronger, more pronounced, almost acrid smell especially with old books where the paper is starting to brown and the edges of their covers are starting to fray. No two of them are ever quite the same.
Sometimes I like to imagine that each book’s individual smell is like a secret code, and if I knew the code I could absorb the story simply by breathing it in.
That’s one thing eBooks will never have. I’ll never be able to take my eReader and breath in the smell of history on a particularly old book or the scent of barely-dry ink on a new one. Don’t get me wrong. I love eBooks. But I don’t think I’ll ever get over holding a real book with real pages in my hands either.
Somewhere along the way, ink and paper combine together. The ink has no understanding of the words it has been entrusted to convey. The paper has no consciousness of its precious cargo. But somehow these two unwitting accomplices work together to create something of meaning. A memory, a story, a shard of the author’s soul.
It’s a kind of magic in its way. And I’ll never stop believing in it.