The Book Beat - March 27, 2020
Hello, book friends. It’s scary out there right now, isn’t it? I want to stay positive for you and say my beloved books are keeping me from worry and fear like they always have, but sometimes the worry and fear are too powerful, too all-encompassing, too loud. Now is one of those times. The calming cloak of fiction can sometimes not be enough to protect from the deep-seated cold of real-life fear. I’m still reading and escaping, but as good as the books are, the pull to read articles about the COVID-19 crisis and its horrific devastation is sometimes too strong to resist. It’s not just because of my yearning for knowledge, but I also feel like if I look away I’ll miss something. This disease is a sneaky one and maybe someone else’s plight with it, one little detail will help me and my family if God forbid we get it. Is this just my anxiety talking or is this how others feel?
Anyway, before I pull up a couch and start braindumping all of my thoughts here (Why are they called triscuits? I get the biscuit riff, but what’s the tri for? Three layers? What?! Why?!) let me just say I hope you’re all staying home, safe, and healthy. I do have some interesting/fun bookish articles this week and then I’ll tell you about what I’ve read, what I’m reading, and what I want to read. Thankfully the publishing world is still turning and it’s cranking out as many great books as usual. Much love to my beloved independent bookstores, which are always struggling to keep up with the bohemeth known as Amazon. If you do have some extra cash, may I recommend patronizing one of them? By us we have Wellington Square Books in Exton (you can order online and they'll either ship or hold it until you can go pick it up), Reads and Company in Phoenixville, and even Raven Book Store in Kentucky is offering $1 shipping country-wide (links below). I know we're all saving every penny we have; donating to hospitals, GoFundMes, first responder funds; or spending the little we may have on food/necessities. So if you can't, no worries. I just thought I would put it out there.
And, it always goes without saying, if you need a virtual shoulder to cry/rage/worry on, feel free to email me. Books don’t hold a candle to a real world that’s hurting.
On to the news...
Are We STILL Saying Chick-Lit?
This short, funny article comments on how female-marketed/centered female entertainment and books can still carry the stigma of being "less than" similar male-themed/written lit/pop culture. I have to say, I would definitely crack up if I ever go in a bookstore and see a section themed "Dick Lit."
Capitol Hill Book Store for One
One lucky reader took Capitol Book Store in Washington, D.C. up on their shutdown offer and had the store all to himself for a whole hour! Read about his cool experience.
A Dictionary Dilemma
In 1984, thanks to the smart thinking of a science editor, Merriam Webster decided to add the word AIDS to its dictionary. At that point (with no internet, etc.) it could take up to ten years for a word to make the cut (it had to be in prolonged, sustained use). Last week, Merriam used the wonders of the internet to add several COVID-19-related words to its lexicon. For now it's online, but I'm sure they'll be added to the print version sooner rather than later.
Work: To Live or to Follow Your Passion?
This wonderful article spoke to me on a personal level. Should we take a job to follow our passion (in the author's case wanting to be a writer/do something related to books) or to pay the bills? Today, at this very moment when the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the very weak/unequal structure of our country's business and health-care systems, should we even contemplate this decision? It's hard to follow your passion when you want to have a paycheck for if you become ill or your small businesses is forced to close, or you're unexpectedly laid off, or you lose your freelance/gig opportunities.
Personally, I did this about a year ago when I was laid off from my full-time job and began freelance writing. The lovely place where I'm working is still using me, which is a good thing and I'm very grateful to them for it. I'm also part owner of a small businesses that is essential for emergencies but still had to lay off some employees. My husband is terrified about subsisting our business on part-time/emergency work and worried about us not being able to cover the overhead of a relatively new small business when the usual revenue stream isn't what it usually is. It's a vicious, terrifying cycle that shows (in my opinion) the weaknesses of our country's business and health care systems.
In both these cases (my husband and I) we were either forced or voluntarily left corporate/bigger-than-the-usual small business jobs to ostensibly follow our passions. He always wanted to own his own business. I've always wanted to write what I want to write. As this author says, it's wonderful to be following your passion but in times like this, you naturally wonder "Ugh, why didn't I stay where I had better health insurance?" "Why didn't I pay the exorbitant COBRA cost to keep that coverage?" My take: I don't know. I know I'm much happier now, but yes our health coverage isn't as good. I know I love having time to research and write about what I want to write about and to help our business prosper, which directly affects the livelihood of my and my kids' lives. But still, when a worldwide medical crisis hits, we have to worry about that business. So, I don't know. All I know now is that we're taking it day by day and I'm thankful we don't have it as bad as many, many others. I worry for us and for our country as a whole.
OK, before I take out that virtual couch again, I'll let you read this writer's words. Read what this fellow book lover has to say about it...
On a Lighter Note: Lord Byron's Menagerie
Known for his romantic poetry, Lord Byron also seemed to love animals. Read about the exotic menagerie he kept throughout his life.
My Reading Rundown...
What I'm Reading:
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin.
When Claire is 7, her 18-year-old sister is found dead when her family is vacationing at a luxurious resort in Saint X, in the Carribbean. Years later, Claire unexpectedly gets into contact with one of the suspects who was never charged. Part thriller, part coming-of-age novel, part faux true crime (it has echoes of the Natalie Holloway case), this book is riveting. I’m 200+ pages in and really enjoying it.
Tease: “The passage of time is of consequence only for the spectacle it reveals: The sea transforms to liquid silver as the day draws to a close. Sunset yields to the lavender fleece of twilight. Stars blink awake.”
The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.
Ava, a black, single mother moves in with her white grandmother after losing her job. Contrasting with this narrative, is one from history: A hundred years before, Josephine (a relative of Ava’s) owns a thriving farm. As a child, she pulled herself from slavery. She befriends her white neighbor Charlotte, who, while friendly, is also a member of the Klu Klux Klan. This book explores the relationships between these women, both in regards to race and gender. I’m about 40 pages in and it’s very good so far.
What I've Read:
Writers & Lovers by Lily King.
I wrote about this one last week. I’m happy to say, it was great. A young woman rethinks her goal of following her passion to write as the realities of life and the unexpected death of her mother weigh on her mind.
The Regrets by Amy Bonnafons.
A girl falls in love with the ghost of a young man who died. How? It’s never revealed (which frustrated me). I’m honestly not sure what the point of this book was. I can’t say “coming of age,” because I’m not sure Rachel really grows throughout this. I couldn’t connect with Thomas either. You feel for him at the beginning and then it seems like we’re supposed to dislike him for getting upset when the realities of Rachel’s life intrude on their cocoon. Sorry, I just didn’t enjoy this one at all.
Cover of the Week:
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
I love this cover. Both imposing (the huge X and the bright colors) and compelling (what is Saint X), it speaks to the Caribbean setting of the murder (or is it a murder?) and the sensationalism associated with the crime. It goes with the storyline perfectly.