And it made me feel normal. After weeks of blankly staring at pages, not being able to concentrate, flipping through poetry and newspapers – I finally read a book. And it was a good one.
Six years ago I wrote about my love for Emily St John Mandel’s pandemic dystopian book Station Eleven on this blog. I also wrote, “What we have right now won’t last.” Because, of course, it was never going to last. I described the book as melancholy, haunted, creepy tingles – all words that also describe her latest, The Glass Hotel.
At its center, the book is about a Ponzi scheme and the 2008 financial crisis – but really, it is about so much more. It is a perfect read for right now because it explores how security is an illusion and everything is fleeting. Characters overlap, timelines mix, and settings range from the middle of nowhere to prison to boats to the kingdom of the rich. The whole novel has an ethereal quality with elements of mystery and the supernatural interspersed throughout – one character thinks: “What does it mean to be a ghost, let alone to be there, or here? There are so many ways to haunt a person, or a life.”
An overall sense of alternate realities pervades the book because Mandel has two characters (maybe more that I missed) from Station Eleven and she references the Georgian Flu that was almost a world-ending pandemic in that book. Characters also always think about what their paths would have been if they’d made different choices. There is so much in this book, and it is so beautifully written. I’m glad it was the first book I read in our new reality.
In Station Eleven, Mandel emphasizes the importance of art to our humanity over and over again – even when only 1% of the population remains. And now, while we’re all isolated, it’s more important than ever. We’re reading books and newspapers and poetry, listening to music, watching TV and movies, playing video games. We’re making meals – which is an art. And, as Cuomo recently said in a Rolling Stone interview “Government done well is an art form.”
Here’s some art that may interest you – stuff that’s made me think or breathe better or smile over the last few weeks.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit have some videos out I’ve played on repeat:
Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press has been writing great columns lately. This one about Humanity during Covid 19, and this one addressing what the f*$% is going on with the Michigan protesters. As I watched them I wondered where the feeling of sacrifice is – I know this is a super scary time and we’re all feeling the financial impact, but we continue to live in a “me” country. That’s the whole attitude that Trump continues to play on.
Love Letter by George Saunders in the New Yorker. Oh my…this is a stinging one by one of my favorite story-tellers. It addresses the terror of this administration and the complacency of all of us.
I’ve been listening to Brene Brown new podcasts, as well as Sugar Calling with Cheryl Strayed. The latest Tim Ferris podcast with Jane Goodall is AMAZING. We’re watching the new seasons of Ozark and Bosch – excited to check out Mrs American on Hulu.
They Were Warriors in the Chicago newspaper by Rebecca Makkai is a first person look at the AIDS crisis in Chicago – a scary time with so many heroes and so many links to the current crisis.
As always, The Atlantic has many must-read articles right now especially this Atlantic article by Frum (a conservative until they became cray-cray) about the failing President. Trump has mouthed the slogan “America first,” but he has never acted on it. It has always been “Trump first.” His business first. His excuses first. His pathetic vanity first.
Rebecca Solnit has been writing about disasters for years – her latest Guardian piece is a must-read: “The idea that everything is connected is an affront to conservatives who cherish a macho every-man-for-himself frontier fantasy. Climate change has been a huge insult to them.” I’m picking up her new book right now – excited to dive in.
Listening to Grateful Dead (Shakedown Street on repeat), John Prine, Kasey Musgraves.
Jamie Oliver has been posting yummy recipes and other stuff – Keep Cooking and Carry On
NYT articles that have hit hard are RO Kwon’s I’m Grieving, During the Coronavirus Pandemic – You may be too, Jason Isbell on John Prine and being vulnerable, and the NYT Editorial Board series The American We Need has so many great reads like the piece by Viet Thanh Nguyen where he states “But if our society looks the same after the defeat of Covid-19, it will be a Pyrrhic victory. We can expect a sequel, and not just one sequel, but many, until we reach the finale: climate catastrophe.”
Also, Elizabeth Warren is so darn smart – she’s written several plans on how to get us out of this mess – check them out to see what real vision looks like. I’m hoping Biden picks her for his VP candidate. And in case you missed it, I watched this three times and remembered how we used to have a president who could string words together into sentences.