The aroma of reading | January 7, 2022 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - January 7, 2022

The aroma of reading


igital books are practical. Get a good recommendation? Just minutes later, you can be reading it.

But print books appeal to the senses — the heft of a volume, the pages brushing your fingertips, and of course the "bibliosmia." This is a new word for me; it means the aroma of a good book.

After 22 months of the pandemic, the "covid" books are appearing more and more — books either about the phenomenon itself or produced during this time by writers determined to have something to show for their time in isolation.

Covid books also include the appropriate old classics that we all dug out again to read, such as Albert Camus' "The Plague."

Another one was "Blindness" by Jose Saramago, which I also read years ago, that tells of an epidemic that causes blindness to quickly spread around the world. "This is an important book, one that is unafraid to face all of the horrors of the century," the Washington Post stated, but I declined to reread it as these days I myself am "afraid to face" said horrors.

I delve into problems via newspapers and magazines but right now with books I want distraction. Which brings me back to writers who used the quarantine to be productive. One such local author is Elaine Drew.

Elaine and I talked in the spring when she was making a presentation to Pleasanton Art League members about the fun of cartooning. But I knew she was also a writer because she handles publicity for Tri-Valley Writers. Then we received a press release about her new book, "Nun Too Clever," which came out in early December.

"We all had our own coping strategies for getting through the Pandemic," she stated. "Mine was to write a book."

"Nun Too Clever" provides an escape to the Middle Ages for a fun romp with feisty Queen Cynethrith, her warrior husband King Egbert, and an assortment of entertaining characters. The tale unfolds of a dead nun, a stolen precious relic, and a missing village girl — the queen wants to sort it all out before bossy King Egbert returns from the battlefront and gets all the credit.

"This is a sequel," Elaine said. "The other one, 'Courting Trouble,' is the back story of how they got together. The idea behind that one was to take the Cinderella myth and turn it on its head."

"Courting Trouble," published in 2018, was romantic comedy, she explained, while "Nun Too Clever" is a mystery.

"This was something to focus on that put me in another era," Elaine said. "I figured I needed some escapism and created this other world to live in."

The humorous characters also lightened up her life a bit.

"I thought maybe other people could a little humor right now," she said.

Elaine became interested in medieval times when her family moved to England in 1989 to stay for four years in Easton, a village near Winchester near Hampshire. A dig was taking place at her children's school and she began to research the Anglo Saxon era, even attending archeology classes at Southampton University.

"This era was calling to me," she said. "I always loved anything medieval anyway, like medieval embroidery, and uncial script."

"There are hints in the history of the early 600s that women had a lot of autonomy," Elaine noted, which led to the independent and spicy Queen Cynethrith, whose story takes place in 810. "They were much more comfortable with sex before Christianity got entrenched and they became dogmatic with their rules."

"Nun Too Clever" is available in paperback or Kindle. That brings us back to the original question: printed book or digital?

AARP just sent out "Worst Six Habits for your Eyes," which include staring at phone, computer or TV screens without a break. This tilts me toward reading words on a printed page — and a healthy dose of bibliosmia.

Editor's note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly.


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