The Book Beat - March 20, 2020
Hello, book friends! How are we all doing? Hanging in? It's a tough time and although at first readers might think, "Stuck at home? Yes! I have all the time I want to read books!" at the same time, at least THIS reader is now saying "How can I read when I worry, and try and stop my kids from arguing, and worry, and make meals, and worry about money, and homeschool, and keep the house clean, and worry, and worry, and worry..."
First, let's all take a deep breath. Good. Like the book nerd I am, I have a Word doc of quotes that I've collected for many years (I have a quote from "Guiding Light," which went off years ago!) and this one spoke to me: “Sometimes it was enough just to listen to voices that weren't your own.” [Claire Lombardo, The Most Fun We've Ever Had]. I'm going to share my go-to calming regime that I've used for the last few days that has helped. Feel free to use this or find one that works for your life. Bottom line: Sometimes it helps to tune out all the external and internal voices that broadcast worry and doom (Twitter, Facebook, Internal Diana's tendency to worry about every little thing) and find a calming text (book, podcast, song lyrics, chatting with a friend, TV show, movie) to help soothe your soul and give you a respite from the worry. I shared a list on my FB page too, but I'm also including some streaming ideas, online virtual tours, etc. below before the Cover of the Week. The explosion of creativity and art that's happening on social media thanks to quarantine and the internet is a joy to see and a lot of that has helped me try and stay calm. First, my regime:
1. Find a quiet spot, bring along a drink [morning, coffee; lunch, iced tea; afternoon/evening, wine], get comfy with my "text" of choice, and take a deep breath.
2. Put some moisturizer on my hands (my frequent hand santizer/hand-washing while singing Broadway showtunes has taken its toll on my middle-aged skin! Go-to song? "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl. I'm crap at singing but I always feel empowered when singing this one).
3. Wait until it dries if I have a book (LOL) and start listening to others instead of myself (or my arguing kids).
4. Keep taking deep breaths throughout and if my inner voice starts yapping about how messy my house is, tell her to shut up.
Sounds simple enough, but it's definitely hard to take the time when there are so many things vying for our attention while we're stuck at home. The key, at least for me, it to do it no matter what. There will always be time to worry and do other things, but take the time to find some calm. It's worth it.
Now, some book news and then creative-themed lists for your reading/viewing/enjoying-while-quarantined pleasure.
And the Bookish Winners Are...
The National Book Critics Circle has announced their list of winners and I was thrilled to see Know My Name by Chanel Miller on it (I know. I know I've said it a lot, but definitely read and/or listen to it. It's amazing).
I haven't read many of these, but I'm adding some to my GoodReads "I know I'll never read all of these even during a quarantine, but I'm going to try" list. I do have The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead in one of my TBR piles. If anyone has read it, let me know what you thought! I do recommend his The Underground Railroad. Don't read it if you're stressed or anxious now. It's pretty explicit and disturbing, but a necessary read for calmer times.
Don't Be Afraid of Virginia Woolf
I read this great article earlier in the week where the author, Kelsey McKinney, writes about articles/stories she's reading to stay positive during this time. She writes about reading Virginia Woolf's 1940 article for The New Republic. In it, Virginia writes about how she's coping while German bombers are flying above her house.
Both pieces are great, especially Virgina's. She not only speaks to being scared but also to the gender restrictions of the time (no women in gov't or the armed forces so they can't make any first-hand impact). She looks on the bright side and offers suggestions for women who feel compelled to do something. It's an uplifting and interesting read.
"Attention is the beginning of devotion."
I've often written here about my love for Mary Oliver's wonderful poetry/writing. This terrific article connects her poetry and its message (noticing and appreciating the natural world around you) to our modern world's obsession with technology. Basically that people's tendency to always be connected/attentive to a device/screen and the constant stream of information shared on social media can and should be focused at times on the natural world around us. We're so enamored with technology that we forget to look outside. I know you're probably thinking, "Well, duh," but this article makes the case that we can do both and should do both, not necessarily "giving up" because of how tied to technology our current world is. The author also gives numerous shout-outs to a book I've written about here, Mary Oliver's Upstream. The last work before her death, it's a lovely collection of essays about nature. Read it, if you haven't already. And (patting myself on the back here), my pic above was actually on Mary's Facebook page that's maintained by her publisher. It's the only time one of my bookstagram posts went viral. Yay, me. :)
One more thing! I've seen a bunch of posts, etc. (kind of proving what I spoke about above!) of people getting out of their houses during this time and hiking/walking/exploring the beauties of early spring. I love to see that! Mary would be so proud.
Good Book News!
Last October, the geniuses over at Macmillan Publishing (and yes, I'm using "geniuses" sarcastically) limited the sales of ebooks to libraries to ONE copy for the first eight weeks the book is on sale. This was to get more people to buy the ebook as opposed to borrowing it. I get wanting to make money, but I love the idea of unrestricted access to free books/ebooks and to information in general that the library affords everyone, so when it comes to capitalism vs. library, I'm going to pick libraries every time. Thankfully, they changed their minds. It might have been encouraged by the national pandemic, but I will take it.
Positive Pandemic: An Art Explosion
In trying to look on the bright side of this time of quarantine and fear, I wanted to share some of the amazing new creative content being shared on social media by artists the world over. There are live concerts, poetry, meditation sessions, drawing tutorials, and SO MUCH MORE. Below are some of the ones I've been enjoying. As I said above, listening to others' words/texts is a wonderful way to soothe your soul during this trying time. And, frankly, watching Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls singing live while wearing a Lizzo shirt was something I wish we could enjoy through normal times, too.
If you have anything you want to share, email me or comment on my FB. My hubby is pretty stroked for Garth Brooks on Facebook Live next week!
Virtual Tours of the New York Public Library and other NYC cultural spots.
Brandywine River Museum: Follow them on FB and Insta to get virtual tours of exhibits and even 13 minutes of the sound of the Brandywine River rippling outside the museum.
Yo-Yo Ma's Songs of Comfort
Museums to Virtual Tour
The Met Stream Operas
All the late-night hosts are posting hilarious content. The Hollywood Reporter has one spot where you can access it all.
Ellen DeGeneres posts stuff daily. She even cold calls a celebrity or two.
"The Great Silence" by Ted Chiang.
"The Cask of the Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe
More Short Story Recs...
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems
Home with the kids? Treat them to this fun lunchtime activity where they can draw with children's book illustrator and animator Mo Willems!
Netflix & Try To Chill
This is by no means comprehensive, but almost every house-bound celebrity is posting content. Look up your faves on FB, Twitter, or the 'Gram and I'm sure you'll find something!
Lizzo does meditation sessions on IG while burning incense and playing the flute.
The Killers' lead singer Brandon Flowers is on Twitter singing "Mr. Brightside" while washing his hands.
Arnold Schwartzenegger is posting content on Twitter with his miniature donkey Lulu.
Jennifer Ehle, the actress who played Lizzie Bennett in 1995's Pride and Prejudice miniseries is reading parts of the book on IG.
And Jared Leto, at an isolation retreat, didn't even know there was a pandemic!
Watch the cherry blossoms in DC bloom LIVE through the Bloom Cam!
Cover of the Week:
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
I'm in the middle of reading this now and it's great! The main character is Casey, a writer who works as a waitress while trying (and trying) to get her first novel completed. She's also struggling with the recent death of her mother. The fun cover depicts the various aspects of her life in bright colors and cool drawings. It definitely stands out on a bookshelf! Here's a tidbit of the prose to entice you. Casey's talking to her friend who is upset that Casey can't afford to be the maid of honor at her wedding.
"And if we took away Brian's salary at Schwab and your dad's little allowance, how much money would you have working part-time at that nonprofit? Would you be able to afford Bermuda or your two-bedroom in SoHo? Are you more of an adult because two men are giving you the illusion of self-sufficiency?"
Hang in there, all! Try and stay calm, definitely stay home, and I hope you all stay healthy!