I hope you are all safe and healthy. It’s been quite a month, hasn’t it? Luckily for me, I’ve been able to go into almost total lockdown pretty easily. Others have not been so fortunate. The stories coming out of New York have been very grim indeed. International House, the dorm I lived in while I was at Columbia, has ended up shutting down after a resident died of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of international students with nowhere else to go, and possible exposure to the virus, were suddenly out on the streets, looking for a place to live. And that’s just one of the harrowing stories from NYC. Meanwhile, Italy is still struggling to control its infection rate, which has plateaued but not dropped despite more than a month of lockdown.
(A huge thanks to everyone who’s participated in my effort to raise money for the Italian Red Cross, by the way. I’ve already donated my March royalties to them, and I’ll be donating my April royalties as well. If you’d like to help, you can donate directly to Croce Rossa Italiana here or grab some of my books here or here).
I’m not writing this to dwell on doom and gloom, but to emphasize that we are living through very extraordinary times indeed, and tough times are here and are probably going to be here for a while. No one wanted them, and I’m sure we’d send them away if we could (and we are taking extraordinary measures to send them away as quickly as possible), but here we are.
At such times there’s always the question of what is the worth of literature at a moment like this. Surely we should all be virologists?
Well, of course, virology is a noble profession and it is wonderful that virologists are hard at work searching for treatments and vaccines. All power to them. But we are, on some level, not just a collection of interdependent cells, but creatures of story and song. Our souls need narratives in the same way that our cells need nutrition. So writing and reading literature is not a waste of time right now, but an imperative. Or so says the graphomaniac reading addict.
A lot of people are seeking some form of light escapism, which is certainly understandable. If that’s what you’re doing, what’s your go-to author or series? My favorite books for that purpose are Rosalind James’s New Zealand romance novels. I’m not normally a big romance fan, but her tours of New Zealand are irresistible, and her books manage to add a big dose of “serious issues” while still keeping it all wrapped up in the most extravagant of romantic fantasies, along with a healthy dose of humor. I’m currently reading Kiwi Rules, and waiting with bated breath to find out whether the Kiwi underwear-model-turned-wounded-war-hero will succeed in wooing the overachieving American fleeing heartbreak and failure. It’s a nail-biter, but somehow I think it might all work out in the end…
But literature provides more than “just” escapism. It can also help put things in perspective, and give us courage when times get hard. I’ve been reading Silver Age (approximately 1900-1920) poetry with my literature students since the lockdown started. All of these authors witnessed revolutions, world wars, and totalitarianism–not to mention the last major world pandemic to sweep the globe. And they remind us, in the words of Osip Mandelstam, that once your breath has settled onto the glass of eternity, the pattern it leaves cannot completely be erased. Reading poetry is often the best way to remind ourselves of that–what’s your go-to poetry to read?
Okay, enough of that! I promised a cover reveal, so here we go!
I’ve been working on creating an omnibus edition of The Midnight Land, and it’s finally here! This is the cover:
I’m “going wide” with all my books this spring, with the goal of distributing them around the world *and* getting them into libraries. The TML omnibus edition is currently populating various storefronts. If you’ve read either or both of the books in the mini-series, reviews would be very much appreciated! I’m especially trying to build up my reviews on non-Amazon stores (although Amazon reviews are also always extremely welcome), such as Kobo and Apple, so reviews in those stores would be particularly appreciated.
If you haven’t read the books but would like to, I’m giving out free review copies in ePub to anyone who wants them. Just shoot me an email at email@example.com and I’ll send you one.
Stay safe everyone, and happy reading!