The importance of an intermezzo between books

An intermezzo is defined as a short connecting instrumental movement in an opera or other musical work.” In a larger context, this absolutely delightful word can also be used to signify a brief interlude or diversion. 

Though a word of the world of music, I first learnt the word while reading about food. in In the world of gastronomy, an intermezzo is a dish used to cleanse the palate in between courses. Intermezzos are usually small, light and refreshing, often a sorbet or a light wine, like Prosecco. I love the idea of a five or seven course gourmet meal with palate cleansers between courses, but more importantly, I love the word used for it. Intermezzo is much more poetic than palate cleanser, right ?

My obsession with the word is such that I look for opportunities to use it, and take great delight in using it while talking about one of my favourite activities: reading. I used to call myself a prolific reader, and perhaps was one in my younger days. I still read more than than the average John and Jane, but not nearly enough. When do I read though, I tend to get lost in the book, immersing myself in the book’s world. I feel the characters’ pain. I partake of their every joy and pain. I go along with them on small and big adventures. I basically live in their world. So much so, that I find it difficult to immediately start another book for that entails resetting the clock and starting over in a new world.

This is where I need an intermezzo. A light, diverting read that allows me to shift my thoughts away from the previous book and prepare it for what’s coming up, allowing me to focus on the new world.

So, instead of sorbet, I indulge in a short story from the gigantic Sherlock, featuring 83 of the thousands of stories and articles about Sherlock Holmes. Or a chapter from Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink. Often it’s a light and bubbly romance, instead of Prosecco. More recently, it was a graphic novel, Ordinary Victories, the English translation of Le combat ordinaire by Manu Larcenet.

On a reddit discussion, somebody spoke about “vanilla reading” between heavier books, which made me smile. I don’t always read heavy, serious books, but I always need an intermezzo. What about you? Do you need to indulge in a different kind of a book, or a different activity between books? Or can you leave behind the world of one book and move seamlessly on to the next?

P.S In case you were wondering why I read a translation of a French comic, when I can read the original, the answer is simple. It’s because it was on the 2$ sale shelf in a comics store, and I couldn’t resist owning a Manu Larcenet at that price. Some of you might remember the story of how I received a package containing a French comic, a decade after it was posted. The comic, Le Retour à la terre, has been illlustrated by Larcenet. 🙂

5 thoughts on “The importance of an intermezzo between books

  1. I too need intermezzos – especially with the books whose world I know I haven’t yet left even though the last page has been read and the book closed. But the trouble is sometimes the intermezzo needs another intermezzo!

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