A Book Is Still Your Best Pandemic Friend



Six months ago I wrote in this space about the importance of books in a pandemic. Ron Charles, book critic for The Washington Post, had taken a few minutes on that week’s CBS Sunday Morning program to remind us that, while it’s important to keep up on our current terrible global pandemic circumstances, we also need to maintain balance in life with a good book.

That was Monday, March 30. With some career background in public health, my best guess at that time was the situation as it was would resolve and life would be back to normal in June, July at the latest.

Six months later, here we are, still living under significant public health restrictions. As of this writing, the pandemic is spiking upward again in both North America and Europe. The prospects for an easy winter are not bright. We look ahead to a second wave that has already begun, and credible estimates of vaccine availability for the general population sometime in 2021.

Is a good book still your best pandemic friend to take your mind off all this? I think so. In fact, I’d say more so than six months ago. We all recognize now, and many of us are feeling, the signs and symptoms of mild depression at the least. The numbing sameness of each day. Everybody feels pretty overwhelmed.

Sure, some of our movie houses have reopened. But nobody wants to go. Most of the fare is re-releases of movies from last January. As the New York Times noted on September 15th, the new movie from Christopher Nolan, Tenet, was supposed to revive the industry. Instead, it tanked. In response, studios have postponed other big releases for who knows how long.

Some new broadcast, cable, and streaming TV is coming this autumn, but not as much as usual, and there won’t be more until production really picks up again, notes The Wrap.

Is there any good news? My local library is open, and so are my local bookstores, neither of which was the case six months ago. Here in Toronto, the world’s oldest LGBT bookstore, Glad Day Book Shop, survived after what appeared to be certain death last spring. Inventive online offerings—book launches, readings, virtual shows by local artists, and the loving support of the community—pulled it through. The stacks aren’t completely open, but the front of the store is, and staff can fetch what you want. And online ordering is beefed up.

LGBT publishing continues apace. September 17th was the live online launch of After Elias, the much talked-about first novel by LGBT Vancouver writer Eddy Boudel Tan. Walt Cassidy was recently online in Montreal promoting his new book New York Club Kids. Glad Day carries on with a stream of local book launches each month. You can find events like these across the map.

Houses like ReQueered Tales continue to republish a catalog of old favorite LGBT titles.

LGBT sellers, publishers and authors can all still use your support. They are still there, telling our stories. The days are growing shorter, temperatures colder, and in some places the snow will soon be falling. It’s the perfect season to ease yourself into a comfortable living room armchair, a cup of tea nearby, your favorite four-footed friend sleeping at your feet as you turn the first page of a new story far away from masks and hand wash. Is this the winter that I tackle Proust?


Bruce Skeaff is a former journalist and current professor of communications at Seneca College in Toronto, Canada.


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