01 April 2020

Go somewhere without leaving home.

Anthologies are a great way to go
So, we’re stuck at home. Better safe than sorry. Some are home schooling, bravo to all of you. Some are working from home, good job. Others are out providing essential services, thank you.

We've got streaming stations, too many TV stations and On-Demand. I suspect, we’re adding items to our Watch Lists as fast as the virus is spreading. We need things to look forward to.

And, of course, you are listening to the news. More sobering by the day. How long will this last? There is only one answer: too long.

Unless you are a genuine recluse, it’s a hard time. Even a loner enjoys occasional socialization. I can write all day, but I prefer writing at a cafĂ©. I miss lunch with friends and dinner out with the boyfriend. Small sacrifices, yes, but we all feel the pinch. Many of us are taking walks or bike rides, maintaining social distance, please. Nevertheless, the days are long, and the stress level is high.

Whatever your circumstance, we are living in strange times. Even your elders, like me, have never experienced anything quite like this. Not in this country. Uncertainty is the tie that binds right now, across the globe.

Reading [and music] are the great equalizers, beyond social media or blogs or Internet news. They have their place, of course, but they tend to fuel the fires of anxiety. If we are to stay sane, and support our immune systems, which suffer under stress, read fiction. Whatever your favorite genre, read. Get out of your head. Away from what ails us. 
Some of my very favorite collections

Although we have too much time on our hands, our attention spans are justifiably under assault, so I recommend short stories. There are a zillion of them in print and online and in a matter of minutes, maybe a half an hour, you might ground yourself in what truly matters.

From the Bible to fairy tales to Sherlock Holmes, stories fortify connections more than divides. You may prefer the traditionalists – Hawthorne and Hemingway, Fitzgerald or O’Connor. Or the early modern masters, like Grace Paley and Ann Beattie. 

Thanks to The New Yorker [one of the only commercial magazines still publishing short stories] you can peruse the archives and read stories by greats like E. L. Doctorow and Alice Munro, or grand Irish storytellers, like William Trevor and Edna O’Brien. More recently, you’ll find the phenomenal Lauren Groff and Paul Yoon.

Some of my favorites, Mary Gordon and Tessa Hadley, layer stories like cake. Award-winning novels have been strung together like pearls with short stories by Elizabeth Strout, Jennifer Egan and Bernadine Evaristo, just as James Joyce did in his day.

Reading a short story first thing in the morning softens the edges of harsh news. At bedtime, the most poignant tale makes for sweeter dreams than our current reality.

There are many stories published online in literary e-zines and also many short story podcasts. I prefer The New Yorker Fiction or The Writer’s Voice – listening is like sitting by the fireside. Audible and Kindle offer some stories for free. Soothes the soul. Oh how we need that now.

BTW, although the OC Library system, like others across the country, is shuttered, there are several digital systems available and most local bookstores are taking online orders. They need our support. 

A gold mine of short reading awaits. Stay safe, stay well. 

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