In this short post, I’m indulging myself musing over a realization that hit me the other night—an insight into reading, rather than writing, and for what I’m fancifully calling “Literary Pixie Dust.”
Alas, I’ve never had great eyesight, and with age, it’s gotten worse, so a lot of my “reading” is moving into audio books, or Kindle text-to-speech. Sometimes I’ll also get the book because of the touch and feel…and smell of books. Several nights ago, while falling off to sleep, I was listening to the audio book Light Darkens by Ngaio Marsh and read by Philip Franks, and it hit my conscious psyche[i] that with my favorites like her, there’s “something special” from the very beginning. And that “Something” is not something I remember ever reading or talking about.
But fanciful and goofy as it might sound, there is a “magic”[ii] that takes you into the story—and in that you’re not just reading, not just enjoying, not just picturing[iii]—but your mind is dusted with some kind of story-pixie-dust. Indeed, the characters, the scenery, the plot—including the overarching musicality of the author’s writing that I’ve gabbed about before—all seem to twinkle. (I’m not surprised if you’re laughing by now!)
As I fell off to sleep, I was kind of laughing at myself. Must be the audio experience itself, the book reader, his voice. So, next morning I found my book copy of Light Darkens, and “it” was still there. I could hear it while reading with my eyes. (M.C. Beaton sprinkles the same pixie-dust on her delightful Hamish Macbeth novels.)
It’s similar to several movies I’ve seen during my life that had a “special something” outside of all the good movie-making mechanics like directing, photography, screenplay, casting, etc.
I’m pretty sure I’m not a pixie-dust writer[iv], but I am a reader. And I’ve heard said in so many ways how wonderful reading is, all the places you can travel, all the characters you can meet…but it really is also “magical” for some readers like me. A thought, which led me to feeling so lucky to be involved in the reading and writing world throughout my life.
This was a different kind of rest stop on the winding road of writing for me. But, on that winding road, my writing goal for this year is–to do more of it, and along the way learn as much as I can! Pixie-dust magic is not on the agenda. Indeed, I’m not sure this indefinable (but very real to me as a reader) element is something one can actually learn? Regardless, it would sure be nice to have. Hats off to Ngaio et al.!
Happy Writing and Reading Trails!
[i] I’ve read the book in the past, but not heard the audio book.
[ii] I’ve searched my mind (and on line thesaurus for the perfect word)—but it won’t come. Hence “magic.”
[iii] Wrote a post here in the past about pictures left in my mind from some books.
[iv] Even if I dreamed of being such, don’t think my style, characters, or topic lend to that sort of “magic.”
9 thoughts on “Literary Pixie-Dust”
Madeline, I doubt there’s a reader who doesn’t understand this phenomenon. I learned a statistic, oft quoted in my posts, that bookstore browsers will read up to three pages before deciding whether to buy the book or not. That appeal you describe goes beyond the ‘hook’. The magic comes from taking the same words available to anyone and weaving them together into something special, for while some writers create straw and some silk, in rare cases we can weave gold.
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So beautifully put, Miko–“…for while some writers create straw and some silk, in rare cases we can weave gold.” Loverly! Magic pixie-dust of gold…
“There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.” Emily Dickinson wrote that in a letter in 1873 and a book of her work which included that was finally published in 1894. It was true then as it is now. But the captain of that ship must be very diligent in order to carry us to those far distant and magical lands. We writers need to keep steering our own ship in hope we reach that destination. Great post, Mad.
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I like the thought of being on a “frigate” being carried off to magical lands…
I need to go back and reread Emily Dickinson–look for and dust off some real books and find a book of her poetry I know I have…somewhere. Thanks!
Maybe it’s pixie dust and not just regular allergies that makes me sneeze, since I do read a lot as well as write, and love the magic stories bring. Hadn’t considered that before! Fun post, Madeline!
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Ha, ha, Linda, allergies or pixie-dust! Big smile here. Never had allergies until we moved out here in the desert where there’s blowing sand and I’m reading a lot–though, I think the difference is pixie-dust twinkles, and allergen particles don’t! (smile)
Intriguing post and comments. Thanks, Madeline!