Over the past couple of days, in between houseguests and pharmaceutical research analysis, I've read The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith. It's one of his Isabel Dalhousie novels, set in Edinburgh and steeped in philosophical meandering.
I'm a fan of Smith and his deliberate, careful use of language and, especially, pacing. None of his books feel quick, even if they can be read quickly - and I mean that in a good way. They're sort of relaxing to read. The sentences are simple - they're not full of convoluted language and unnecessary clauses. However, Smith spends a great deal of time setting scenes, creating mood and allowing his characters' minds to wander. He doesn't listen to writers' guidelines that promote action and quick dialogue over thought. His characters spend a lot of time just wandering around, and sometimes he'll describe a conversation instead of just sharing the dialogue. I like it.
And how is this about food? As usual, it is, because I want it to be. Last night, when I finished the book, I knew I wanted to write about it so I had to hunt around for a food connection. Fortunately, I found one.
Smith's characters eat a lot. Or, rather, they drink a lot of wine and coffee, and regularly sit down for dinner with one another, or deliver each other gifts of food (one of the main secondary characters in this series, the protagonist's niece Cat, owns a fancy deli). However, the actual consumption of the food is never described.
My theory on this is that to describe the food, or even the characters' reaction to food, would add too much fire to the story. Too much action for stories steeped in theory. The implication is that the characters really enjoy their food - they like to cook and they like to eat - but food is just too real. It would pull the reader out of the philosophy discussion.
In retrospect, that makes the book sound a little boring, doesn't it? But truly, it's not. Yesterday, I had about an hour free. Dixon was sleeping, my work was finished, my house was clean. I sat on the deck (it was hot), drank a diet coke and read some of the book. It was one of the most relaxing hours I've had in weeks.
When a book doesn't even make me miss the food, it has to be good.