What Scotch Night can teach us about Books and Reading

2014-04-04 20.39.19There were perhaps a dozen of us, although I never got a definite head count. And there were at least a dozen bottles of Scotch on the bar. Plus a Japanese whiskey. It was a tasting party, so no, we did not plan to drink a bottle each. However, we did all get quite buzzed, even sampling several varieties. Like nearly everything else, all that tasting made me think about books, reading and writing. There are some clear parallels.

Some people like, and relate to different regions. Scotch is created in different regions, or settings if you will, and the taste of the scotch takes on the character of that setting. From peaty lowlands to the woodsy highlands, even the smooth, almost sweet 20+ year olds, everyone likes a different region. Some are even more popular than others.

Books are set in different regions as well, most often the region the author is from or familiar with. That region has a character of its own, and some readers like certain regions better than others. From settings in the Northeast and along the East Coast by Allan Leverone, to tales of the deep South by Heath Lowrance, to my own works set in the Northwest, there are a variety to choose from. Each story inevitably takes on regional characteristics, just as scotch aged certain places takes on the characteristics of the surrounding environment. So if you do, or even don’t like a book, the setting may have as much to do with your “taste” as anything else.

2014-04-04 19.32.28Aging makes a difference. Young writers create fiction not as polished as that of more mature authors. This is not to deny that some first novels are break out pieces. Nor is it to deny that some writers get worse with age, are not edited as well because of their name or status. Also, in most cases more mature writers (and by that I mean authors who are physically older) have experienced more, and tend to have more experiences to draw from.

Note I said aging makes a difference, not that different is better or worse. The stories just take on unique characteristics depending on age of the author, age of the reader, and the age of the story. Scotch is similar. There seem to be certain ages that appeal to specific drinkers more than others. Whether 12, 14, 16, or 21 years old, each scotch has characteristics defined by age. No certain age is “bad” but liking that age is a matter of taste.

Blending changes the taste. Some of the best stuff I have read, or written, has been a result of collaboration. The novel Satanarium, written by me and Poppet, a brilliant and prolific author, is a unique work because it contains two distinct voices. Some people like it (it is dark and sinister) and some don’t, but it’s a good book either way. It is not like my other books, and in some ways is not like Poppet’s other books. It’s a blend, and when done well blends work.

Scotch is often blended as well. While all blends are not created equal, sometimes the combination created has an appeal all its own. Some lower end blends are designed with affordability in mind, while others are designed to create unique flavor. Either way, some people like the blends better than each original, while others would never drink a blend. It’s a matter of personal preference.

2014-04-04 19.34.40Finally, Price does not always indicate quality. Is the most expensive Scotch the best? Not always. The most expensive, over 20 year old scotches do not appeal to some aficionados, but they are more expensive simply because of the time involved in creating them. Just because something costs more does not mean it is better. Those scotches have their appeal, and their following, but not everyone likes them.

Books, especially e-books follow a similar pattern. I’ve read some great work I paid 99 cents for, like the recent offering of the Deadly Dozen. I’ve also read some great e-books that cost me nearly $10. Traditionally published books have a higher price point, but they are often no better edited or created than a small press or self-published book. In fact, they are often lower in quality, but that is another discussion for another time.

The point is that while price, blending, aging and region all go into both Scotch and books, sometimes the differences are just a matter of taste, not an indication of quality. So as a reader, don’t be afraid to taste something new. You might find something you really like.