“The Name of This Book Is Secret”: Synesthesia – The Colorful Smell of Numbers

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Since I’m a firm believer in studying what makes a book excellent and/ or popular, I chose  “The  Name of This Book Is Secret” the first book in “The Secret” series  by Pseudonymous Bosch (aka Rafael Simon, but don’t tell anyone his real name since he travels around the world incognito)  illustrated by Gilbert Ford.  As we already know, a successful series is heavily dependent on a great first book and this book doesn’t disappoint. Actually, it was a pleasure to read. Absent are the zany characters and slapstick humor of the MG books I’ve recently reviewed. The series is geared to a more sophisticated reader. Thank heavens!

What is novel for me in this book is the concept of “synesthesia” the blending of colors, smells, sounds, numbers and graphemes so a stimulus in one modality produces a sensation in another modality. For example, synesthetes can hear colors or associate sounds with numbers  or smells with music. Some authors and artists and many musicians are known to possess this trait. In modern day society, Tori Amos, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Eddie Van Halen, Pharrel Williams, Stevie Wonder and Kanye West are only some of  the synesthetes acceding to Wikipedia.

Pseudonymous Bosch addresses a different modality of synesthesia in each book of his “Secret” series:                                                                                                                                   Book 1-The Name of This Book Is Secret” (smells) (the symphony of smells)         Book 2-“If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late (sound) (the sound prism)               Book 3-“This Book Is Not Good For You” (taste)                                                          Book 4-“This Isn’t What It Looks Like” ( sight)                                                                   Book 5- “You Have To Stop This” (touch)

Some examples of smell synesthesia in “The Name of This Book Is Secret” are as follows: the story revolves around the mysterious and coveted “Symphony of Smells.” Example 1 –  musical symphony #9  (p. 42)   is composed of juniper, chocolate and allspice Example 2-  First violin=ginger. Viola=maple. Cello=vanilla. Oboe=licorice.

Interesting, isn’t it? I have to admit many years ago when I visited Mexican pyramids, the tour guide told us how the ancients associated numbers and colors. He told us to go to the casino and focus on  specific colors at the roulette wheel to make certain numbers come up. Needless to say, it didn’t work for me so I filed the whole concept under “G” for Garbage. So, guess who isn’t a synesthete? Another example of why we shouldn’t judge by our own limitations.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Name of This Book Is Secret” and its recipe for success:                                                                                                                                            Genre: Mystery                                                                                                                  Preface: “WARNING: Do not read beyond this page! Good. Now I know I can trust you. You’re curious. You’re brave. And you’re not afraid to lead a life of crime….Read on, if you must. But, remember, I warned you.”                                                                                    Chapter 1: two pages of  “Xxx xxx xxxx.”…….”Xxxxxxxx?”…….”Xxxxx x xxxxx,”xxxxx  xxx!”  “Xxxx  xx.”                                                                                                                      Chapter One and a Half: “I’m sorry I wouldn’t let you read Chapter One. I can’t keep a secret. I hope you have better luck.”                                                                                       Humor: In Chapter Two, three signs in Cass’s adopted grandfathers’ antique store – “You break it you hide it.”  “The customer is always  never right.”   “If it aint’t broke don’t fix sell it.”                                                                                                                                                        Story Within a Story: “How Max-Ernest Became Max-Ernest”  and “La Storia Della Mia Vita” (“The Story of My Life” as told by the missing magician, Pietro Bergamo) Characters: Cassandra (Cass) the survivalist detective;    Max-Ernest, the lover of logic, detective;    Pietro Bergamo, the absent magician whose letter drives the characters and the story;   Benjamin, the synesthetic genius kidnapped to become a human sacrifice; Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais, the villains with a surprising past                                                                                                         Setting: Anytown, USA, the missing magician’s house and The Midnight Sun Spa ( a place of evil – yikes!)                                                                                                                   Family Life:  Cass lives with her mother  and spends a lot of time with her two adopted grandfathers (all normal);  Max-Ernest lives with his divorced parents who still live in the same house and don’t agree about ANYTHING  (not normal)                                                                                                                                             POV: The mysterious narrator interjects himself/ herself into the story at the beginning and end so chapters 1-3 are told in the first and third person, then continues in third person and reverts to first person at the ends (all of them)                                                    Visual Variety: different fonts, bold, italics, an eight line sentence without spaces between words                                                                                                                               Games: riddles, secret codes, scrambled anagrams, secret doors and panels  Illustrations: with captions and clues                                                                                  Ending: Cass and Max-Ernest rescue Benjamin BUT the villains are still at large; an epilogue of  the characters’ lives BUT it’s not really the ending                                            Write Your Own Ending: lined pages for the reader to change the ending of the story Chapter Zero: continues the ending since the previous chapter was not really the end-so call this the denouement and get angry if you want to                                                                                                    Appendix: recipes, glossary of circus terms, keyword codes, instructions for a card trick                                                                                                                                             Advertise: the second book in the series, ” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Continued in Book 2-If You Dare”

We see a lot of familiar techniques in this book as well as  innovations. This book made the New York Times Bestseller List for a reason. We must include a number of things the reader expects, but give it all a new twist, a different slant, a unique quality to make it stand out from the crowd. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s as plain as the nose on your face but it takes genius to see that nose in a different way.

Any synesthetes out there? I’d love to hear from you!

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

Take a look at this video to  enter the world of Cass and Max-Ernest.

Next week’s blog post…October 18, 2014 “The Giver”: A Frequent Visitor On Challenged and Banned Book Lists


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