Lots of Extra Time to Read These Days…

The latest call to self-isolate means a lot of people are currently finding themselves with a lot of extra time their hands. Yesterday, our daughter reported that her coworker complained that, given the need to avoid the usual away from home distractions, it’s unfortunate that he can’t find anything worth watching on Netflix. He was promptly reprimanded that he could always read a book, and I totally agree! Of course, the wonderfully insightful Joshua Gibbs offers some movie suggestions for those so inclined:

Fourth, a few recommendations… If you’re going to allow your children to watch just one movie a day over the coronavirus break, I would suggest imposing a rule on your selections— as in, resolve to not watch anything less than fifty years old. Whatever you do, don’t have a Lord of the Rings marathon, a Star Wars marathon, or what have you. It isn’t not gluttony just because you’ve attached the word “marathon” or “contest” to whatever you’re doing.

While the word “classic” means something much less when referring to a film than to a book, older films demand more patience, more intellection, and repay third and fourth viewings. Here are several older films which any student attending a classical school ought to see.

1. Vertigo: In the last ten years, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo has replaced Citizen Kane as the film which most regularly tops critic’s lists of the greatest films ever made. Like Psycho and The Birds, Vertigo is a retelling of the Tristan and Iseult myth, though it easily the most sophisticated of the three.

2. The Night of the Hunter: A good film to show anyone who thinks old films are boring. The Night of the Hunter is a humid, terrifying film about two children on the run from an ersatz preacher who murdered their mother. It is one of just two films written by legendary film critic James Agee (his other screenplay is The African Queen). Made in 1955, but not recommended for anyone younger than high school.

3. Paths of Glory: One of Stanley Kubrick’s early films, Paths of Glory is a vexing, aggravating movie set in World War I about a French general (played by Kirk Douglas) whose men are unfairly condemned for refusing to take part in a suicidal charge. Part war film, part courtroom drama, fans of René Girard will adore this scapegoat story.

4. Casablanca: The Bogart-Bergman classic needs no introduction, but have your sons and daughters watch this one, then have them read Umberto Eco’s “Casablanca, or, the Clichés Are Having a Ball,” which is one of the most delightful film essays ever written.

5. Black Narcissus: Powell and Pressburger’s gorgeously shot psycho drama about a bunch of nuns high on the Himalayan mountains who are trying to 1) run a school and 2) not fall in love with a shirtless David Farrar who play the lusty but cynical handyman who knows their school won’t last.

Three of these five recommendations are movies I am wholly unfamiliar with, so I appreciated the list.

The fortuitous thing about living where we live is that self-isolating in early March need not mean being stuck indoors. Fresh and sunshine are superb health tonics and we are experiencing that in spades right now, along with moderate temperatures and lower humidity than we’ll enjoy a few weeks hence. I’m encouraging my kids and other people I know that taking long walks during this season can only serve your health, not endanger it.

Of course, I recognize that many Americans are not living where it’s sunny, breezy, and 80 degrees in Mid-March, and so won’t be sitting on their patio reading books, as I am about to do after I throw in the next load of laundry. My kids are currently meeting online with one of their teachers since classical co-op class meetings are on temporary hiatus. Here are a few books I am adding to my current queue over the next couple of weeks:

I was considering adding Bowling Alone, but there will be a new updated version of that book available this summer, so I’m going to wait. The new addition will consider the role the Internet has played in the increased disintegration of community and social capital in the 20 years since the original book was published.

My question for readers is two-fold:

First: how are you handling the requests for increased isolation and social distancing? Are you changing your lifestyle and habits during this time?

Secondly: If you are changing your routine a bit, are you increasing the time you devote to reading? And if so, what will you be reading? I’m endlessly curious about what other people are reading!

8 thoughts on “Lots of Extra Time to Read These Days…

  1. Elspeth says:

    I updated this post to include some movie recommendations by Joshua Gibbs, who writes at The Cedar Room, hosted by Circe Institute. if you read it earlier, time to take a second look!


  2. hearthie says:

    Social distancing? Err. Well, since gyms are closing EVERYWHERE … but not here just yet… I am getting in a solid workout tonight. Otherwise, this week is my week to just go to work and the gym and meet my mentee. Might do that on skype? I’ll see what she wants to do.

    Since over-65yo are asked to self-quarantine, I had 19yo miss his breakfast with his grandfather today, much to their mutual sadness.

    My fav fiction author drops her new book tomorrow, so I know what tomorrow night will bring. 😀

    But otherwise… I’m going to work as normal. Don’t have to take 15yo to school, that’s the big change.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nellperkins says:

    My husband is disabled, recovering from a major injury and sickness, and 67 years old. My parents are 85 and 91 but live 20 miles away. Other kin are watching them from a safe distance, while I continue to call them daily, as I have for years. I may be forced to visit them in person before another week because they’re just so frail, stubborn and independent, but frail. I will wear a mask. I will not hug them. I may get tearful.

    I’m being allowed to work from home. Most of my family works in retail or in restaurants, so we’re looking at widespread layoffs in the family for people who don’t earn that much to begin with. The people peddling tourism as the answer to all Appalachia’s problems have a lot to answer for …. (No offense meant to those who love to visit!)

    I’m trying to figure out how to maximize food production on family land.

    When I knew it was bad — last Friday — I went to the library to stock up on books before I went to stock up on food! Of course, I’m a pessimistic sort so I’ve been quietly picking up extras for several weeks and carefully monitoring news out of China and then Italy. I got three mysteries/thrillers in addition to Slade House by David MItchell, Agency by William Gibson, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellan, and a style book, How Not to Look Old.

    When DH had his accident in January, I wound up trapped in assorted emergency rooms for over 24 hours with nothing to read except St. Catherine of Sienna, grabbed when I ran out the door. God bless her. One of her feats was working with the ill during a plague, but I can’t say much for using her writing to distract while upset.

    I hope to return to rereading some of the Anglican classics such as George Herbert and John Donne and also rereading some Chaucer, but they’re like St. Catherine — too dense and difficult for distraction purposes. I read like a fiend, so I’m trying to pace myself because I don’t know when I’ll next feel safe going to a bookstore or library. Wondering about food and books is what makes me most anxious about this whole thing — that and of course worrying about my family.


  4. Elspeth says:

    P.S. Ship of Fools is a great book.

    Thanks for the recommendation! I like Tucker Carlson. I don’t always agree with him, but he is at least pretty even handed in his assessment of things rather than being a cheerleader for any particualr political faction.


  5. Bike Bubba says:

    Not too much time for extra books. Daughter #1 is getting married this summer to a fine young gentleman who’s going to med school, so we’re getting dresses made for the moms and the bridesmaids along with some “kung flu” masks. Daughter #2 visited Seattle two weeks back on a short term mission and is getting out of self-quarantine today (no symptoms, thank God, though she was working with bums and office workers, but I repeat myself), and daughters #3 and #4 are doing a fair amount of work keeping the economy going by doing things like babysitting the kids of doctors, nurses, and the like.

    Never thought staying at home (I get to work from home about half the time, and I’m not super worried about getting kung flu at work because nobody’s there to speak of) would be so darned busy and tiring.

    Liked by 1 person

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