BY ELEANOR SHELTON
Originally posted April 23, 2020
I wonder … during a pandemic when we are quarantined, what do we gravitate toward to read? Is it time for a view of the human condition that pokes fun like Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Or the quirky essays of David Sedaris? Or how many of us want to escape into the reliable formula of a romance? Perhaps the times call for the doom and gloom of a psychological thriller or gasp, a pandemic trope such as Emily St. Johns Mandel’s Station Eleven? What is it precisely that we read when we know there is a killer outside, but we can’t see it.
Responsible reading during the pandemic.
I don’t need a Yale professor to tell me this is the time when my brain desires a distraction.
I’ve resorted to poetry lately—Sharon Olds, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Dickinson, Robert Frost, Mark Doty. I even read a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes today (or at least tried to). Olde English proved difficult.
If this sight doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart, you are a monster.
Patrick Stewart calms me with his daily sonnet reading on Facebook.
Because I know what tomorrow will bring:
- new numbers of deaths
- my own four walls
I dream about what I don’t know:
- what it was like to live in Tangier, Morocco fifty years ago
- what it’s like to be a chef in the top restaurants of the world (two books I’m currently reading).
- do I attempt to make my own yeast starter
THE BEAUTY OF READING IS HOW FAR I CAN EXPAND MY WORLD WHEN I’M CONSTRAINED TO 1800 SQUARE FEET.
Perhaps you are the type who wants to understand what we’re facing. You might want to read about plagues from the past, like Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider about living through the Spanish Flu, or Defoe’s 1722 chronicle of the Bubonic Plague in A Journal of a Plague Year.
Be honest, this has been on your reading list forever too.
The fact that humans survived and society kept evolving could be enough to set our minds somewhat at ease. Just for transparency, I haven’t read any of them. Though Love in the Time of Cholera has been on my to-read list for over a decade.
This is my endeavor: to read more, to read wide, to read deeply, to read selfishly, and marvel that storytelling is the only thing right now breaking me from the bounds of my own 1800 square feet.