• Carmen Milligan

The power of suggestion

I was reading Amor Towles "Rules of Civility" a few weeks ago, sitting on the sofa in the bright morning sun, steaming cup of coffee at my side. The characters were attending a party of some sort, and the author was quite brilliantly describing the alcoholic elixers so beautifully that, for the slightest of moments, I considered pouring my unfinished coffee down the drain, and popping open a bottle of bubbly.


The author practically had me salivating and trying to choose between cocktail onions or stuffed olives for a gin martini. At least in my mind. Let the record show that I did not abandon by morning coffee.

I started to think about this because I realized that reading about someone sunning themselves on a sandy shore while the crashing of waves lulls them into a mid-afternoon doze does nothing to make me want to go to the beach. On the other hand, if I read about a really good meal, detailing various courses, and the spices and tastes ... it does make me want to get something to eat. Not that it makes me hungry, but it sounds so good and so satisfying that I want to experience it.

Authors surely know the magic of their words. The fact that my heart raced when, in Joe Hill's "Heart-Shaped Box", Judas was awakened at 3am by a ghost in a suit sitting in his hallway. Eeek! Or that I sobbed when I learned what had actually happened to Eddie in "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom. Or that I chuckled out loud when Lillian Boxfish trades her full-length mink coat for a leather bomber jacket with a young man named Keith who tried to rob her in "Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk" by Kathleen Rooney. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but works can scare, break, and lift my spirit.

And therein lies just one of the joys of reading: being totally transported to a 1920s speakeasy, the home of an aging rock star with a collection of the macabre, or midtown Manhattan on New Year's Eve in 1985. Also, all of the above books are highly recommended.

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