There is no memory of having heard the word cozy used as the genre of a book before signing up some years ago to be a part of DorothyL, an on-line discussion group about mysteries. Curiosity at the time led me to read several books described as such by both the authors and readers.
That reading did nothing to satisfy my curiosity. Comparatively speaking, the books read were more cheese and chalk than peas in a pod. The subject had been dropped from personal thought until another round of on-line discussion arose about what makes a book cozy. The latest comments struck me saying what a cozy book isn’t rather than what it is.
The book being read when this latest round of discussion started was Anne Rivers Siddons’ BURNT MOUNTAIN. She writes scenes that could win a majority vote on being cozy, but no one would use the word to describe her complete books. “Why not?” That was the question lingering in the back of my mind as reading the book continued.
The exercise left me with the following thoughts—intended to be nothing more than what the word cozy means to one reader as it relates to books. That the word can used to describe a book has not so much to do with the subject matter, but how the subject is approached.
Cozy is the feeling created by reading the book, like a perfect trip to the beach. It was a sunny day. The temperature was neither too hot, nor too cold. The sea breeze, gentle and soothing, was never so strong as to make blowing sand a concern, or ruffle the pages of a book being read. The water, when going for a swim, felt perfect, like a second skin, with a gentle rolling surf, no need to keep a lookout for rogue waves.
The trip to the beach is remembered only with the feeling that it was a very enjoyable time. Nothing specific happened that burrowed into the brain and left its mark in such a way that in the days and weeks afterwards, it could be recalled separately from the overall enjoyment of the day.
The “cozies” read a few years ago are remembered in this manner. The feeling that they were enjoyable still exists. But, with the implied threat of a gun being held to my head, not a single character or scene from any of them can be recalled. And that is not a bad thing from my perspective.
The idea that every book read should be a story where events became emotional weevils borrowing into the psyche of the book’s characters, creating—for them and vicariously for me—moments that remain a haunting memory days or weeks later is not an appealing one. Every book need not give some great insight into human nature, or reveal some universal truth.
This is not to say that such books are never read. But sometimes, certain authors are bypassed for the moment when the goal is to simply pick up a book and, hopefully, have the experience of reading for its inherent enjoyment. And afterwards, like that perfect day at the beach, remember nothing more than it was worth the investment of time.
There is a fear, for me at least, that it would be a terrible situation should every novel read remained a conscious memory, competing later with the reality of the moment. Life, I think, might become so discombobulated that remembering what to do when Mother Nature called could be a problem.
Knowing that a book will be a cozy read beforehand is somewhat of a gamble, but knowing it was one after the last page is never a question. Which, to my way of thinking, is the problem. Cozy cannot be defined as an abstract truth, such as: sunrises and sunsets occur only once in each twenty-four hour period. Cozy is not a genre. It is a word that describes a writer’s desire/hope/goal while creating the story and/or a reader’s feelings after reading it.