Stack of books

The Next Chapter: Reading During a Pandemic

This was not the blog post that I was going to submit. I was halfway through writing a post about lesser-known books. Sometimes, though, life gets in the way. Things like the coronavirus.

I have been deemed by the NYS Comptroller’s office to be a non-essential employee. I don’t have to work from home. I basically have been given 2 weeks vacation with pay. Basically, it’s a 2-week staycation.

It’s not been easy. I had an anxiety attack a couple of weeks ago when one friend who I adore kept updating the COVID-19 news every five minutes on their Facebook page. I have been trying hard not to watch or read the news. It hasn’t been easy but I am lucky to have books in my life.

After reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved, I needed to read something soothing and funny. I found the perfect book to take me away from today’s problems: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. The book details the first year Mayle and his wife bought a house in Provence. It starts in January with a six-course meal at a restaurant on New Year’s Day and ends with a Christmas party. In between, there is a grape harvest, dinner parties, and a yearly goat race in one town that holds up traffic. Even though I got a lot out of Toni Morrison’s masterpiece about the aftermath of slavery, I think I enjoyed and savored reading A Year in Provence. I was able to travel to France without getting on a plane.

I am currently reading two books. I usually don’t do that but these are difficult times. Plus, I have time now to read two books at the same time. These two books are very different from each other.

The first book I’m reading is The 42nd Parallel, the first book in the USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos. I never read an entire series before. I read the first book in the Harry Potter series. I enjoyed it but I didn’t see me reading all seven books ( There are seven books on that series. Right?). I read the first book in the Forsythe Saga by John Galsworthy and the second book “Barchester Towers ” in Anthony Trollope’s Barchester series. I’ve had my set of all 3 books of The USA Trilogy with illustrations by Reginald March for a long time. The trilogy is basically a collage about the development of the United States from the turn of the century to the 1920s. I am really liking it, despite the fact that it uses un pc language to describe different ethnic groups.

The other book is part of a buddy read with a friend on Instagram. It’s Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. I’ve read one other Lord Peter Wimsey book, Clouds of Witness and really enjoyed it. Lord Wimsey is an amateur detective. In this book, Harriet Vane, who Peter had saved from the gallows from finding out who killed her lover (who she lived with and didn’t marry) goes to a class reunion a d gets caught up in a poison letter case at her old college at Oxford. I like it but you are thrown a lot of characters at once but hopefully, I hope they will get sorted out by the end of the book.

John Cameron Mitchell in one of his awesome Instagram videos said that the key to not going crazy in this strange time is to keep a schedule. I think that’s why I’ve been posting on both Instagram and Facebook stacks of books. I come up with a theme each day, pick up a bunch of books first thing in the morning and take post a photo of them. I’ve really enjoyed talking to my friends about books. Hey, I may not take a shower and get dressed until 3 pm but at least I post a different stack of books every day before 10 pm.

Another thing that keeps me going are the awesome videos poets have been submitting to this website. We all are isolated right now but it’s great to see all my friends making videos. Thanks to Mary, Thom, and Courtney for doing this for the community. If you haven’t seen the videos, please do and post them. If you haven’t, please do. This is a great way we can all stay connected. I’ve forgotten what some of you look like because I’m old.

I’m supposed to go back to work on April 1st. The fact that is also April Fool’s Day isn’t lost on me. I hope we can all stick together. Maybe I’m a “cock-eyed optimist ” but I think we will all get through this somehow. Keep being nice to each other. Keep laughing. And keep reading. Love, Don