The Rhythm of Reading

Books hold a rhythm for me, a beat that becomes part of my enjoyment of a story.  Words and sentences within the pages of a book have a melody and though it may not be a melody that can be heard by the ear, it is certainly one that can be heard (and felt) nonetheless.

Like a musical note of an arrangement, each word has its place within the story, a place where it makes sense, where it won’t cause dissonance in the fluid telling of the tale.  Perhaps that is why writers will go back and cross out a sentence or scratch out a word; it doesn’t fit the melody.

As I read a new book by a new author, I look forward to getting to know their rhythm.  They are the composers of the piece and each author has a distinct ‘feel’ to their voice.  Some authors write in such a way that their stories have a soft, rocking lullaby type rhythm to them, such as Alice Hoffman and Jodi Picoult.  Other authors tell their stories through accented, staccato beats; the language and thoughts breaking off in melodic snippets such as David Maine or Margaret Atwood.  Pulsing, dramatic and elongated rhythms are what I hear when I read a good ol’ Stephen King novel.

The more I read (and the more new authors I read), the more I begin to ‘hear’ the different rhythms within the book.  This is a large part of why I always read the first page of a book before deciding to buy it.  Since the synopsis on the back of a book is rarely ever written by the author themself you certainly can’t determine the rhythm of the book by reading that alone.  The first page will usually give me a sense of the rhythm and, if the mood is right and it resonates with me, I will buy the book.  Now, I say usually because it has happened where the rhythm gets broken throughout the book.  Perhaps the author lost interest in the story, or maybe the author wasn’t certain what they wanted to say.  Regardless of the reason, we have all experienced those stories where we become bored, frustrated even at where it is leading us.  For me it is the breaking up of the rhythm.  The starting and stopping, the wrong notes and flat pitches that lead to the story’s disharmony.  It is striking the wrong chords within.

I keep the books of authors that have rhythms that resonate with me.  I know their sound, feel and their tone.  Like listening to your favourite song when you want to be uplifted, so too do I pick up a well read book, knowing it’s rhythm is exactly what my soul needs.

I love music and I love reading, yet I can’t listen to music while I read.  I’ve since come to realize it is because of the rhythms hidden within books.  Sometimes they don’t harmonize with the song playing on my stereo and I end up getting pulled out of the story.

My love for reading is multi-layered as it is a quantum experience (to me at least).  Energy is all around us, within us, is us and as I’ve said in this blog before; a book chooses us as much as we choose it.  This makes sense when you stop to consider the rhythm within a book.  If my energy is pulsing out a certain ‘feel’ it is safe to say that a book of the same pulse will attract me to it, lull me in.  Perhaps this is why I take my time when I am book shopping.

I don’t know if this will make sense to anyone but me but a book to me isn’t just about the words.  The amazing thing about books is that they actually do engage all the senses.  Each book has its own taste, feel, look, smell and sound – that is what makes up the magic of books.

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About Geeky Book Snob

Learning stuff since birth. Happy introvert who likes socializing when she's not busy being an introvert who likes to read.

Posted on October 15, 2012, in General Musings & Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. letstalkaboutlit

    This makes beautiful sense. I’ve never thought of it this way!

  2. therelentlessreader

    What a lovely (and TRUE) post 🙂

  3. This post makes me think of Shadow of the Wind by Carlso Ruiz Zafon. Great post.

  4. You have such a beautiful way of describing books! I had never understood before why some authors attract me and others don’t; now I know why!! 🙂

  5. Reminds me of what Tom Robbins wrote in his first book, Another Roadside Attraction:

    If John Paul’s drumming cast no particular luminosity on the question of Plucky and the monks, it did at least give Amanda some insight into the musicality of human behavior. To wit: actions, like sounds, divide the flow of time into beats. The majority of our actions occur regularly, lack dynamism and are unaccentuated. But occasional actions, such as Plucky Purcell’s venture into the Wildcat Creek Monastery, are accentuated due to their intensified stress. When an accentuated beat is struck in relation to one or more unaccentuated beats, there arises a rhythmic unit. Rhythm is everything pertaining to the duration of energy. The quality of a man’s life depends upon the rhythmic structure he is able to impose upon the input and output of energy. Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Einstein understood what Thoreau meant when he spoke of men hearing “different drummers”. Thoreau did not say saxophonists or harpsichordists or kazoo players, mind you, but drummers. The drummer deals almost exclusively with rhythm, therefore he is an architect of energy. Art is not eternal. Only energy is eternal. The drum is to infinity what the butterfly is to zero.

    http://jeromeyers.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/accentuated-rhythms-tom-robbins-book-another-roadside-attraction/

    • Oh, I like this a lot! Now makes sense why I love drums so much. I love this “The drummer deals almost exclusively with rhythm, therefore he is an architect of energy. Art is not eternal. Only energy is eternal. The drum is to infinity what the butterfly is to zero.”

  6. I used to listen to music while I read, but as I’ve gotten older, I find it more and more difficult to do so.

    I agree every author as a rythm, I’d dare say every book has a rythm in itself: a best-seller can be read in two days while a good book dealing with deep issues, with half the pages of the best-seller, can take you two weeks.

  7. This post just blew me away as it expresses exactly how I feel about writing and reading – that it’s all about the rhythm! And it’s instinctive – you can’t teach it and you can’t learn it, you can only feel it. Thanks! Wish I had written this. Looking forward to more of your posts.

    • It’s funny that you say you can’t learn it, I believe that too. We are all artists with a rhythm that needs to be released. What your medium is really depends on the person. Some writers just get it, others try and force it.

  8. Just great stuff – such an original approach to writing about reading, and then lovely discussion ensues.
    I wanted to include the opening line from a Garcia Marquez book, cause he is one of those people I think of as a rhythm giant, but all the English versions seem to be gone from my shelves…odd… There is only the Spanish, which was tempting, but seemed a bit pretentious when we’re just getting to know each other.
    Wonderful, true post.
    Kat

  1. Pingback: How to write a good book (II): the rhythm - Yareah Magazine. | Yareah Magazine. Arts and writing

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