Once coronavirus became locally infamous, I got tired real fast perusing neighbors’ comments in NextDoor about good books to read during quarantine. I refer to the really smart people who write about, for example, what erudite books to read during coronavirus. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being sarcastic. I honor those elites with huge piles of thought-provoking books stacked on the side table by the bed. While I would guess that those commenters are not now parents of very young children—I am not one —they are doubtlessly fine people.
Myself, when stuff like coronavirus happens, you know, things that suck, I want to just yell out the window something similar to Howard Beale in Network. I’ve little or no expertise when it comes to handling this current stuff. Might even be more difficult for a person living alone, like myself. Or not.
Back to the subject of reading. “Once upon a time.” Old English Literature majors like myself love those four words at the beginning of a Grimm’s fairy tales, or an Aesop’s fable.
Anyway, once upon a time, I began reading about plagues. Many English Lit types cut their eyeteeth on horrific works of yesteryear like The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Barry Benepe has reminded me that Pepys’ Diary shows how life under that bubonic plague mirrored today’s pandemic. As an even better choice, Barry recommends Daniel Defoe’s The Plague Year. My personal favorite is something gleaned from Sommets Littéraires Français, the 1957 anthology French book that my Junior high school class at Power Memorial Academy was busily using. In early January 1960, we might have been working on Albert Camus’s La Peste (The Plague), namely the especially moving chapter about the innocent child dying of the plague, when suddenly, we learned that the author had died in a car crash. He was 46. It was a bit like losing a friend, or a relative dying. I do recommend the book.
I should add that during this, our mutual malaise, if you have neither the time nor the inclination to read, or watch, any more sad stories, you might want to just turn on Channel 83 on Wednesday mornings to watch old episodes of “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” Time permitting, of course. While most of us can’t travel very far now, one might as well watch a cheerful, melodramatic, period (c. 1929) piece series from Australia. If nothing else, the mindlessness is perfect accompaniment when doing necessary paper- or housework. Works for me. Finally, I sure hope this virus is in our collective past by my birthday, May 24th. I suspect you do, too. Cheers.
—John F. Early