Strange events like the coronavirus provide the opportunity to look at the familiar with new perspective and reimagine a new sense of normal.
There is something uncanny about social distancing and staying at home. One oddity is that there is so little to compare it to. A colleague compared it to being trapped on a desert island. This made me think about Wilson and Castaway, however I feel that is a bit extreme and does not completely capture the situation.
The strange thing as to consider various pieces of fiction and how if they were set in the current climate they might be different. Jessie Gaynor reimagined the beginnings of a number of stories, such as Pride and Prejudice:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be hoarding toilet paper.
However, the book that has left me thinking has been How to Make a Movie in 12 Days.
Written by an old friend of mine, Fiona Hardy, the novel tells the story of Hayley Whelan and her journey to create a film over the summer break in memory of her grandmother. It grapples with one calamity after another in an epic quest against time set in suburbia.
After finishing the book, I was left thinking about the world it depicts. Whether it be riding around the streets, sending messages to friends on the family computer or posting on YouTube channels, I wondered how this may date in the future. However, the pandemic has taken these thoughts to a whole new place.
I was left thinking about the impact that the requirement to stay at home would have on the ability to film various scenes, the limitations in regards to socialising, especially not in parks, cafes or libraries, and definitely especially not with the older at risk members within the community. There is also the impact of hygiene practices, such as washing hands, wearing face masks and disinfecting equipment, and the challenges this would create in regards to the movie making process in twelve days.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised it was in fact a great novel for capturing the current circumstances. Although there is a longing for face-to-face communication, with pyjama clad late night rendezvous, there is also the reality of asynchronous communication. Associated with this, the novel was built around a personal passion project with an authentic outcome. Something essential during times when formal learning is not occurring. Much of the inspiration stemmed from the long movie binges that Hayley and her father would partake in. This all encapsulated what Ian Bogost suggests when he says that we are all basically already living in quarantine.
Discussing what The current virus is so confusing, Ed Yong suggests that the coronavirus itself does not have a clear narrative.
I cannot read about the losses that never occurred, because they were averted. Prevention may be better than cure, but it is also less visceral.
I would argue that other than dystopian tales there are not many pieces of fiction which help in making sense of the current normal. However, what I have found is that solace and meaning can often be found in strange places.
What about you, what books have helped you during the current crisis? How have they helped you in making sense? As always, comments welcome.
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