Without leaving home, go somewhere else.
By Randy Kraft
Most of us are stuck at home. 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. We can catch up on what we meant to watch and, 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 café.
Yes, 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 us right now, across the globe.
Reading is the other great equalizer – a great way to balance whatever else is on your daily schedule and I don’t mean 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. Learn something. Laugh or cry or wonder.
And, although we have the time, 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, Homer 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 Katherine Mansfield, 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 some of the greatest 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. And award-winning novels strung like pearls with short stories by Elizabeth Strout, Jennifer Egan and Bernadine Evaristo, just as James Joyce did in his day.
Even now, always immersed in a novel, reading a short story first thing in the morning softens the edges of harsh news. Even better, take a short story to bed – 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. Soothes the soul. Oh how we need that now.
Although the OC Library system is shuttered, they do have several digital systems available and local bookstores are happily taking online orders. A gold mine of stories awaits. Stay safe, stay well.
Randy Kraft, the OC Book Blogger, is the author of the novels Colors of the Wheel and Signs of Life and a new story collection, Rational Women. randykraftwriter.com