The subject has come up in several venues and I found it a useful exercise to consider all the things one might engage in to pass the time while living in isolation from the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.
First, I have a literary bucket list gathering many of those big fat, possibly difficult books I know I should read but never seem to have the time or the inclination. Do you have a bucket list too? Maybe now is a good time to start one. There’s a good chance that, despite all his best efforts, Der Drump (Dishonest John) will not kill us all off and we might truly make a dent in that scary ol’ bucket list.
So what to do while avoiding social contact?
Read a big fat important book you might never have enough time for in the future. Consider these titles:
- The Anatomy of Melancholy — Robert Burton
- Bleak House — Charles Dickens
- Nicolas Nickelby — Charles Dickens
- Middlemarch — George Eliot
- The Good Soldier Svejk — Jaroslav Hasek
- Ulysses — James Joyce
- Finnegans Wake — James Joyce
- Seven Pillars of Wisdom — T. E. Lawrence
- Harlot’s Ghost — Norman Mailer
- The Executioner’s Song — Norman Mailer
- The Magic Mountain — Thomas Mann
- Joseph and His Brothers — Thomas Mann
- Women and Men — Joseph McElroy
- A Man Without Qualities — Robert Musil
- A Glastonbury Romance — John Cowper Powys
- Gargantua and Pantagruel — Francois Rabelais
- Pamela — Samuel Richardson
- Clarissa Harlowe -or- The History of a Young Lady — Samuel Richardson
- A Suitable Boy — Vikram Seth
- The Tale of Genji.
Gorge on a fun mystery series (or suspense or spy or even speculative fiction). Try these:
- Dune series by Frank Herbert
- Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie
- Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
- The V. I. Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky
- A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust
- The Foundation series by Issac Asimov
- Spenser series by Robert B. Parker
- The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
- The Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson
- The Yoknapatawpha County saga by William Faulkner
- Commedia by Dante Alighieri
- The Maigret series by Georges Simenon
- The Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- A Dance To the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
- The Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly
Catch up on the great films available on the internet (Criterion, Netflix, Amazon, wherever). Here’s a few:
- Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love the Bomb
- The Grifters
- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
- The Apu Trilogy
- The Decline of Western Civilization
- Under the Volcano
- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
- The Woman in the Dunes
- War and Peace
- Berlin Alexanderplatz
- America America
- Blue Is the Warmest Color
- City of Lost Children
- Cannibal Women In the Avocado Jungle of Death
Or maybe an orgy of cable television with series like:
- The Sopranos
- Sherlock Holmes
- 30 Rock
- Dawson’s Creek
- The L Word
- Arrested Development
- Are You Being Served?
- Breaking Bad
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
- Prime Suspect
- PeeWee’s Playhouse
I could keep going with operas, podcasts, ant farms, cloud formations, role-playing games, dress-up, ukulele strumming, cooking, the proverbial organizing of the sock drawer, toilet paper diaries, and rodent identification. Then there’s always Mumblety-peg.
7 thoughts on “Mumblety-peg”
Totally out of curiosity, why all those books? What is the draw to them? I’m just wondering because I see so many people talk about these great classics and the like and I just never even considered most of them.
Considering the extremely small percentage of books I have selected compared to the thousands that are available for reading nowadays, I don’t understand what you are referring to when you say “all those books.” I am reasonably selective in my choice of books but there are several factors which are prevalent in the decision. First, although there are a lot of really great books out there, I have already read a hearty percentage of them and as a personal quirk, I seldom reread anything .. there’s too much new stuff to sample. Second, I have acknowledged embarrassing holes in my reading through the years and feel pressed to fill-in the major gaps (thus James, Zola, Vollmann, etc.). Third, I’m always looking for new and stimulating books and even though most are disappointing at best, there’s a lot of competent literature out there that needs to be given a chance. Note that just about any experimental fiction intrigues me and whether good or bad, it’s worth the effort. I’ve discussed this before but there are many factors which influence my selection of more contemporary fiction: catchy titles, flashy covers, favorite authors, intriguing subjects, digital availability, personal mood, etc.
I have openly admitted to a personal conundrum: should I be trying to read all the classics in my old age or should I be enjoying all those entertaining mysteries and thrillers? I have been working this out for the last year or so and have concluded that the mysteries are more fun and relaxing but the classics are much more fulfilling. I intend to continue mixing the different kinds of reading material in my monthly pool: classics, mysteries, contemporaries, and experimental fiction.
I guess what I meant was the classics. How does one decide when there are so many? How does anyone know what all the true classics are, isn’t some of it perspective. I think I am intrigued by people’s choices. I go for psychological thriller type of things. I am fascinated by the mind and how disturbed it can be.
The specific books in this list were, as stated, big fat challenging texts the average reader might never have the time to read, but they are all important classics. Still, not everyone will even consider these books. For instance, I find science fiction and fantasy generally tedious and a waste of time; however, I will sample such fiction that may be recommended to me or which seems to add to my cultural literacy. But science fiction in general … nope.
Everyone has their own taste in reading. It’s all good. Keep reading.
LikeLiked by 1 person
One of my favorites is the Alchemist. I don’t really enjoy science fiction either, it seems too hokey. Long ago when I first started reading Stephen King I had no clue what I was reading about, which made it quite confusing. I remember thinking at the time that I thought he just wrote about crazy people doing crazy things. I mean even Christine isn’t what I would consider science fiction. But many of his books are. I tend to shy away from things when they start talking about beings from another realm.
I am reading Lonesome Dove and my wife is reading Executioner’s Song for our extended Spring Break reading.
I read Lonesome Dove when it came out (Imus recommended it) but now since it’s part of a continuing series I think I’ve fallen behind. Executioner’s Song is on my read-soon list (just got a digital version since the physical book was a doorstop). Now that we all have Time it’s good to see you’re reading those Big Fat Books.