Monday, April 6, 2020

#17 COVID-19 and Reading

#17     Covid-19 and Reading

So what's a YOLD guy ( Young Old--between the ages of 65-75) gonna do when in shut-down, confinement, stay-at-home going into a fourth week? Well, he can exercise so it's a 1-3 hour hike each day, he can do chores like spraying under the deck to kill carpenter ants, and he can digitize the last 5,000 35mm color slides dating back to 1977. And he can read, even if the library is closed. I mean I have 1880 books that are not converting into sales, so why not read some. What's been good as a Covid-19 read?

Four books for enjoyable reading begin with an ARC(Advanced Review Copy) of a book that will be published 04/14/2020." The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power" by Deirdre Mask is her debut and it presents a deeply researched history of the power of street names, location, as well as how street layout was determined. She reviews the Roman and early English developments on grid layout and ad hoc arrangement that is totally confusing and then looks at the power of naming and numbering streets and buildings in Vienna, Philadelphia and South Korea. Particularly interesting is her view of power following the Nazi rise in street naming in Berlin and what followed the defeat to those names. She explores this same issue in post-revolutionary Tehran , post Civil War Florida, St. Louis and South Africa following the end of apartheid. The book ends with a look at the effect of street names on homeless people. This book is all a reader would want to know on an obscure subject.

"Sports Illustrated Fifty Years of Great Writing" is exactly as billed collecting the best of 1954 to 2004 for a Fiftieth Anniversary Big Book. This is not for reading cover to cover but more for dipping in and reading an essay or two. And it's not presumptuous to say every reading will expose a great writer like Frank Deford, Roy Blount Jr., Robert Creamer, Dan Jenkins, Roger Kahn, Budd Schulberg, Thomas McGuane and George Plimpton. But who would have expected authors like John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Wallace Stegner, and Jim Harrison contributed to SI? This is a book to cherish for the long haul especially with no live sports on the horizon.

A third book was a re-read especially after attending a February Loveland Symphony Orchestra 250th birthday salute concert to Ludwig Beethoven. I re-opened Edward Dusinberre's "Beethoven for a Later Age: Living With the String Quartets" and enjoyed the book all over again. Dusinberre, the first violinist since 1993 of the world-class Takacz Quartet , now based in Boulder at the University of Colorado, blends his story from audition to the quartet to working with three other fantastic musicians, originally from Hungary, as they learn and perform Beethoven's string quartets, deal with a brutal travel and performance schedule, illness and death. This real life view of an elite musical operation is matched with Dusinberre's vivid re-telling the drama in Beethoven's life as deafness took over, Napoleon's armies repeatedly entered Vienna, and no one would pay Beethoven the agreed upon money for his compositions and concerts.This book is really special if you enjoy classical music.

The fourth book is a new classic and a most timely book, "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel. This book , a Finalist for the 2014 National Book Award, is a time-shifting tale that begins with the death by heart attack of a famous film actor on the Toronto stage of King Lear as witnessed by a child actor, nine year old Kirsten and Jeevan, a paramedic who tries unsuccessfully to resuscitate the actor. Their three stories intertwine as a worldwide pandemic begins that night from a Georgian Flu and The Collapse of civilization follows. Fifteen years later Kristen is travelling what's left of the coastal areas of the Great Lakes in Michigan with a troupe of musicians and Shakespearean actors in their horse-drawn caravan as their stories again intertwine in very surprising ways.In some ways this is a difficult book to read right now, but the author is a terrific storyteller.