Author: Dimitris Vagenas
I was talking to a bookworm friend of mine, whom I haven’t seen in a long time and our conversation was about – what else? – books!
“What novel have you read the most times, which books do you have on your nightstand etc?…”
At one point she very naturally said to me that for her, happiness is to read Agatha Christie’s crime novels. I was not at first surprised by that, as every reader could say the same for their favorite author. Searching for the “Queen of Crime”, though, I realized that many readers –even those who do not necessarily include her among their favorite authors– could identify with this phrase. However, the above seems to explain the reason why her theatrical piece “The Mousetrap” is running continuously in London since 1952, having the longest run in the world, and her books have been translated into 103 languages, selling billions of copies. Moreover, the fact, that the scientists who have studied her novels and have come to similar conclusions, maybe proves that my friend is totally right, although she ignores the aforementioned studies…
“The Agatha Christie Code” concerned the scientists from the universities of London, Birmingham and Warwick, who loaded to the computers more than her eighty novels, analyzing every word and every sentence. According to their findings, common phrases that are used repeatedly in her novels, like “can you take a look on this?”, “more or less”, “a day or two”, and “something like that” as well as the key words that play a central role in her books, like “life”, “live”, “alive” and “death”, raise the levels of serotonin and endorphins, namely the chemical messengers of the brain, that induce pleasure and satisfaction. Pernilla Danielsson of Birmingham University also claims that the vocabulary of her books is very limited, enabling the readers to focus on the characters and enjoy the plot, without letting poetic phrases and difficult words distract their attention. Furthermore, the way Christie expressed herself mirrors the way hypnotists express themselves, thus it should not surprise us that the readers become “addicted” to her books, reading them again and again. Despite the limited vocabulary, in her novels there are usually more than nine characters and each one of them has a separate story, something that could confuse and disorientate the readers, considering that it is very difficult to pay attention to more than nine stimuli at the same time. However, as the story comes to an end, the information input decreases even more and the paragraphs become even smaller, activating the neurotransmitters of the brain, which are relevant to yearning and the sense of freedom.
According to this particular neurolinguistics study, the positive emotions experienced by the readers of the “Queen of Crime” are totally reasonable. However valid and reliable these findings may be, I believe that science cannot fully explain and conceive what people think and feel when they get in contact with a piece of art. Adopting completely the author Th. D. Fragopoulos’ opinion, I feel that nobody can write the poem that is born inside him/her, the very moment he/she reads someone else’s poem…
BBC NEWS. (2005). Linguists study Christie’s appeal. Retrieved on 17 April 2015 from http://www.bbc.com/news
Davis, B. M. (2013). Did Agatha Christie Have a Formula for Success? Retrieved on 16 April 2015 from http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/
JSBlog – Journal of a Southern Bookreader. (2005). Neuroscience bolsters Agatha Christie promotion. Retrieved on 17 April 2015 from http://jsbookreader.blogspot.gr/
Christie A. (2013). The Mousetrap (Galeos A. Trans.). Athens: Aigokeros Publications.