Angela Haupt gives us a fun and even for its simplicity, a thoughtful piece on what kind of readers might be making the best of the stay-at-home pandemic currently exposing the weaknesses in our American civilization. Here are just the highlights: the full article (which may be behind a paywall at WAPO) is definitely recommended and a lot more fun.
If you’re from my generation, you grew up with the American heroics epitomized by John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima. As a very young man my two favorite books were Battle Cry by Leon Uris and Valhalla by Jere Peacock. This idealist propaganda approach was effectively destroyed by exposure to the journalistic approach to the obscenity of the Vietnam War. Blame television. Add to this the Stanley Kubrick film—Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb—and generally I avoided war stories in text or film for the next fifty years.
Oh, there were certainly exceptions: I did read War and Peace … twice. War and Peace, however, was not a jingoistic American fairy tale.
Looking for a feel-good read? Something with strong characters you’ll want to identify with? A story that has you rapidly turning the pages to find out what comes next? I’m sure there are many titles out there that will easily smooth-out your anxieties in this time of corona virus and the triumph of science over voodoo politics, but don’t look to Fernando Pessoa for it.
The Book of Disquiet by the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa is aptly named: it is a book and it is chock-a-block with anxiousness, discomposure, and agita. It also gives the reader something to think about on almost every pages. However, even though it might be considered a novel, it certainly is an example of a novel which, with only a few instances, has no plot, no characters, no background, and no dialogue.