Thursday, 30 April 2020

Reading and the lockdown, have we really changed our reading habits? This Week's #ReadItTorial

Ah reading, there's nothing quite like becoming entirely immersed in a book to take you away from the stresses and strains of the real world.

Though a lot of the news articles at the moment seem to be from folk who've discovered reading anew, we're book worms and haven't really noticed a massive upsurge in the amount of books we're reading compared to normal.

If anything, sadly, the Coronavirus has taken its toll on the number of books we're getting to review (but we have plans to deal with this, as you'll see in a few days' time - starting on the 4th May in fact).

So we are reading fewer "different / new" books but it's given us time to work our way through our back catalogue to some extent.

For C, this has meant working her way through her beloved "Dork Diaries" books, simply because she wants to indulge in a bit of 'comfort' reading, blasting through a series that she's familiar with is like bubblegum for the eyes, though by now she must know those books from cover to cover.

I've been working through a lot of comic series I've meant to catch up on for ages but am also pulling out books I've previously read (most of which are 'end of the world' novels, I guess I just have some morbid obsession with dystopian fiction at the moment).

I wonder if other folk who are working from home are scoffing at some of the suggestions that a lot of us suddenly have more time on our hands. Other than the time I've clawed back from not having to take part in the rat race / morning and evening commutes, I've got no more time than I had before - and often the pressure of working from home (currently as part of a team administering and supporting our place's major strategic lynch pin for other home workers) means I'm even more burned out in the evenings than I was before (I can only guess that without a boss looking over their shoulders, some work from home folk are slacking off!)

Books are magic, we all know this, so when I do finally settle down in the evening to read, I'm instantly taken out of the world and into the book world I'm immersing myself in.

The one thing about my current chosen taste in books is that I am finding a lot of dystopian fiction somewhat twee in comparison to the real-world experiences of the last few weeks.

I like the fact that each piece of fiction is rooted absolutely in the era that it was written in, where the imagined horrors of the end of the world are actually about the imagined horrors of that author's particular direct view of the world, its experiences and its benefitst, ending abruptly or changing to reflect 'the new norm' (I still hate that phrase).

I was discussing with my brother whether there would ever be a need for dystopian fiction ever again after this current crisis becomes a memory (a time some distance in the future, I really do believe that even when the lockdown is lifted, we won't ever quite return to what we once perceived as 'normal') -

Human nature dictates that for years to come, there'll be a lot of weirdness around simple acts we previously took for granted, like shopping in supermarkets, passing strangers in the street or even the simple act of someone sticking out their hand for a handshake upon meeting, or the way people react when someone coughs in a queue at the post office. One thing missing from a lot of dystopian fiction is the way that the 'social' aspect of social media is conveniently disposed of. Even in books that are set well within the timelines of the rise and rise of Facebook and Twitter, even MySpace for that matter, social media scarce gets a mention yet in the current lockdown and pandemic conditions, social media is the glue that is keeping many people sane and on an even keel, and of course is also keeping them in touch with friends, family and loved ones.

My brother, the wise well-read weirdo that he is, seemed to think that we really are on the brink of the death of dystopia - and that despite the many cash-in novels you can probably imagine that will emerge initially from this crisis, there will be a huge demand for bright, breezy, happy and positive stuff as that's the 'norm' that people will want to return to.

Dystopia well and truly fell out of favour a few years back, only to begin a slow and steady rise back into the spotlight before the current pandemic. I still believe that there may be a place for it, even despite all this.