Stuck in the house? No one gets any points of virtue for suffering since we are all suffering and must press on. But we can all use this time of misery to fortify our characters. Here are some ideas:
- Keep writing. You can say, “I was able to accomplish polishing my book because of the pandemic.” How many of your friends in the real world (as defined by those who don’t attend writers conferences) can say that?
- To impress your most devout Christian friends, read more Christy Award winners than they have. Here’s a link to get you started.
- Read more books by Christy Awards Hall-of-Fame winners.
- If you’d rather outdo your neighborhood intellectual snob, read or revisit weighty (and I do mean weighty) classics you had to read in high school, but can consume with new eyes today. Watching the movie does NOT count. READ THE BOOK.
Here are a few suggestions:
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Not up for something quite so long? Consider these:
No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Portable Dorothy Parker
Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
1984 by George Orwell
Happy reading, and please stay safe and well.
Add your own favorites!
Now would be the perfect time to read “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder–with your children, if they’re bored and feeling sorry for themselves.
Dune is a great hefty read. I was not a great reader growing up, so plowing through that one was a huge (and worthwhile) accomplishment.
Tamela Hancock Murray
I asked my husband about Dune since he’s a fan of the genre. He had the same experience as you did!
Dr. Dean Ortner
When I was in junior high school I had a study hall like most of us had. In that study hall I sometimes did what most of us might have done when a little free time came up after we finished any homework. I had just started taking university classes, in particular physics and aeronautical engineering, and the older students were much faster in their work, but I needed to be very careful and took more time. So, during a self-imposed brain break I picked up a general reading magazine, “Readers Digest.”
There was a story about a man who was an English Professor at a New England college and this young boy went away to Harvard. Between September and when he came home at Christmas he projected what we might call some “airs.” He picked up a Boston accent in all of four months; he learned to wear a proper Boston Tweed; he began to smoke a pipe, at eighteen. His father, through conversations on the telephone and through letters, gathered that his son was becoming a little bit more concerned with his “wrapper,” if you will, that the reality of his heart.
So when he came home for Christmas, his dad met this boy at the train station. The boy came in, he had his pipe and said, “Hello ‘fathah,’ how are you doing?” His dad took him home, sat him down and this wise, venerable older man offered his son a cigar offering the cigar box popping the lid.
His son looks and sees they are five dollar cigars! “Go ahead, son, have one.” The boy looked and selected one, took the wrapper off and bit the end off and began to talk to his dad.
“Did you notice dad, how that end just popped of when I bit it? That’s because you know it’s a good cigar when it’s properly rolled, otherwise it would have crushed.”
His father said, “Um, huh.”
The son fired it up and said, “You know dad, did you notice how slowly it lit up because it had the proper moisture because it’s been properly cured. Good cigars have that you know.”
“Oh, thank you.”
As he smoked he noticed how the smoke was suspended in the air, the aroma and bouquet as he exhaled. He’s commenting on all these things to his dad and his dad said, “That’s really good son, especially since this is a seventy five cent cigar.”
The boy looked at him and said, “You don’t understand dad.” He picked up the wrapper and said, “That’s a five dollar cigar.”
The dad said, “No, that’s a seventy five cent cigar, and that’s a five dollar wrapper! That is a seventy-five cent cigar in a five dollar wrapper because I changed it! You are smoking a seventy-five cent cigar with a five dollar wrapper.”
The father then sat back and began to wax slow and philosophically and the boy could not say anything because he had stepped into the noose. The father had him dead to rights. So he continued to wax philosophic as you do when you have someone dead in your sights. You need not panic.
The father said, “Back in the days of early Rome the Romans were divided into various caste systems. The lowest of all caste systems were those without nobility. They were the plebeians of the Roman caste. Frequently these people of this caste system that were known as “sin nobilae” or “sin nobilis,” those without nobility, would frequently act as if they were of a higher class than they were in reality. They would begin to effect the airs of the royalty, nobility or aristocracy.
The father would say that those people were looked down upon by the elite society because they were nothing but a shell. After a while their name was shortened from those of the sin nobilis, to a shorter name and simply called a “sin nob.” That is where we get our word for “snob.” He said, “Son, a snob, in its Latin, etymological origin is one without any nobility, but acts as if he has a more sophisticated wrapper.”
The boy said that even though he was thoroughly rebuked, all he could think of was the kindness of his father, seeing this old professor sitting there methodically unwrapping and wrapping five dollar and seventy-five cent cigars exchanging their wrappers, making the switch just to teach his ignorant, young son the difference between reality and wrappers.
Men have all through their history been plagued by snobs. You don’t like them, do you? Even snobs don’t like other snobs giving them a bad reputation.
Great suggestions, Tamela. I’m polishing my manuscript and not stressing over the pandemic.
I’ve been in isolation
for nigh unto a year
with cancer’s situation;
there’s really nowt to fear
if one keeps up a hard routine
of duty, work and play,
and not peruse old magazines
to while away the day.
Wear clothes unto the world without
though you may not see a soul,
for the mirror tells you all about
your success in staying whole.
Keep up lonely love and grace,
and you’ll see God’s reflected face.
A suggestion, for what it’s worth…motivation is a moving target for me, and I make sure to read what brings inspiration (and often joy, though those don’t always coincide)…and I’m very quick to discard any book or movie that becomes a drag.
Isolation is not the time to do what you think you must; it’s the need to do what you can to facilitate your ability to face the day with hope and humour intact.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Excellent poem and insights, Andrew. Please stay safe during this troubling time.
You too, Tamela. You are such a blessing to me, and to everyone here!
Damon J. Gray
This was a fun post, Tamela.
I once tried to “increase my snob appeal” by reading The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.
I was not successful. Fascinating read? Yes! But Looooooooooooooooong.
A great entry, Damon!
So your reading of it declined to zero before you reached the fall?
If it’s any consolation, I haven’t even started reading that one, even though I write a Roman history website. It’s not even among the 100+ academic sources I use. But I could recommend some fascinating books for you on crime and punishment, slavery, adoption, gladiators, the Roman navy, authentic Roman recipes, and how a Roman physician would treat a broken leg (used that one in my WIP).
“Storming the Heavens”–a must read for you!
Added to my shopping list. Thanks.
Haha! Great article! I am writing and reading away.
I am reading more and also catching up on some sleep. And the writing? Yes, this era affords me more time to work on my book, uninterrupted.
All of us might benefit from STUDYING 1984. My husband and I keep remarking on the eerie similarities in world politics.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Fun fact: I wrote my term paper on 1984 when I was a senior in high school.
Does the book like Pride and Prejudice count?
Cause 207 years later after it was written and it is still able to get my heart racing.
I’m just saying.
Best ever book
Hornblower and the Hotspur
Never Go Back (Lee Child)
The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration
Country Crossing (picture book)
The Problem of Pain
How to Write the Blockbuster Novel (by my 1st agent, Al Zuckerman)
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Highway has such an authentic-sounding dialogue and it’s shorter than War and Peace. Lol…also Sound and Fury by William Faulkner for point of view of intellectually limited person. Must be patient with sentence length is downside!
I can’t help thinking about a friend telling me he’s finally going to tackle Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace while he has all this down time. But I don’t believe it for a minute!