Yvonne Rowse, programme chief
There seems to have been endless media stuff produced for lockdown. I’ve even had to watch a few because Ian has made me. We watched One Man Two Guvnors and Jesus Christ Superstar and lots of little youtube shorts. My favourite, due to brevity and immense charm, is the Good Omens: Lockdown written by Neil Gaiman. I’m not a visual media person, however, so I read. Mostly I have been reading Covid-19 stuff and I’ve had enough. I need to read something, anything, else.
The trouble is, I’ve been infected with dread. I’d be an awful apocalypse novel hero. Here we are, in the middle of a cosy catastrophe (we can, except for the key workers, avoid the virus) and I am filled with anxiety. And that means I have been frozen into immobility.
In situations of stress I normally knit and read. The first acts a little like meditation. The second takes me to different worlds where I am integral (as the reader) to helping all the great characters do great things. In books I have many friends. We are doing things more interesting than singing happy birthday twice (maybe three) times while washing our hands and bickering about what essential item we forgot to buy and can’t face going back for. In books exciting things happen, important things. Mostly no-one sits all evening eating a family size bar of chocolate.
The problem has been finding suitable books to read. I am really struggling at the moment with even mild peril. I mean, even when I’m pretty sure that everything will end up alright. I’m not just talking about death or injury; even mild embarrassment is causing me to leave a book unfinished. Jo Walton, our former Guest of Honour, has two potential solutions, as described on tor.com. Either Books in Which No Bad Things Happen or Books That Grab You. In the first there is no worry, in the second you are immersed so deep that the ‘real’ world has been left behind.
Before finding these two articles I had been reading the Chalet School books and Georgette Heyer. All were pretty much re-reads, though there are some Heyer books that I can’t finish due to fear of impending (but not terminal) dread. But I’ve read all I’ve got.
I can’t read Paladin of Souls again. I think it has one more read in it before it is sucked dry of all goodness. I’m saving that for my deathbed. My Margaret Mahy books are in pretty much the same state, even the short stories and although I could read and reread The Boy Who Was Followed Home every day it doesn’t take long, even when the pictures are examined minutely.
So, I am working my way through the books recommended both in the articles and the comments. It is worth reading all the comments as some dispute other recommendations. And Nevil Shute is recommended in the ‘grabby’ books. I can certainly say that On the Beach did not let me go once started but it has a devastating finish and, along with Ancient Light, is on my list of books to never ever read again. Not that they are bad, just that they’ll tear your heart out and leave you traumatised for weeks.
So, I reread At Amberleaf Fair (Phyllis Ann Karr) and have the Moomin books piled up ready to go.
What books are keeping you sane and why?