I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to settle to read, let alone write thoughtful reviews right now. (I’m sitting on one at the moment that I really want to do justice to, but my brain is all over the place.) Consequently, I’m going to just write a COVID-19 Monday Musings – and try to keep it simple, and focused on the things most important to us, that is, books and the arts.
A couple of days ago, The Saturday Paper (paywalled except for one free article a month) published an article by award-winning essayist Alison Croggon on “COVID-19 and the arts“. In it she discusses the impact on the arts, particularly on small companies and independent artists in the greatest jeopardy, of COVID-19 containment measures. These measures have certainly affected me with various cancellations, including our beloved National Folk Festival. Mr Gums and I count ourselves lucky to have managed to see the Australian Ballet’s last performance of the season of “Volt”, before Melbourne Arts Centre was closed down.
Anyhow, Croggon writes that:
As always, the brunt is being borne by thousands of small companies and independent artists and ancillary workers – publicists, stage managers, technical staff, ushers, caterers and others. Many are in desperate situations, exacerbated by the fact that their major sources of alternative income – teaching, casual work in the hospitality industry and so on – have also dried up.
She shares the experiences of a musician and a theatre designer to put flesh on the facts. And it’s pretty withered looking flesh. One talks of having all those jobs carefully cobbled together to create a living income disappear in one go. It’s important, therefore, that governmental assistance package/s include support for freelancers and independent arts workers, because they are critical to the survival of the industry as a whole.
Meanwhile, “freelancers are calling for institutions to pay out cancelled commissions” but not much of that is apparently happening. I certainly think that those of us who can should do this, and/or not ask for refunds for cancelled events. I figure that I’ve spent the money anyhow. However, I appreciate that life will become more tenuous for some people and that money recouped (or not spent) will make a difference to their surviving this period. All I can say is that each of us needs to do what we can but to not judge what others do – unless we’ve walked the proverbial month in their moccasins!
Bookish stuff, in particular
I can’t even begin, really, to offer suggestions about this because ideas and opportunities to maintain our literary culture are coming thick and fast, ranging from ways to keep buying books and supporting our bookstores to potential livestreaming of literary events (like the Yarra Valley Writers Festival). It’s impossible to keep up and, anyhow, I suspect that those of you reading this blog are well enough connected to be receiving news and notifications yourselves. We can’t catch it all, but we can catch enough to keep us well engaged.
My reading group, which was to have met at my place next week, is setting up a WhatsApp group to try out virtual book discussion. There may be better apps, but as this one is known to many of the group already, it’s where we are starting. Within minutes of the group being set up, 8 of the 12 of us had joined, which is a measure, I think, of how much we value each other and our book discussion.
Many bloggers have written COVID-19 posts, including Lisa (ANZLitLovers) with three posts to date, Bill’s (The Australian Legend) more personal one, and Welsh blogger Paula’s “Coronatome” version of her Winding up the Week posts in which she provides a bumper crop of reading, including one of Lisa’s posts and a Books + Publishing article about the expansion of Australian Reading Hour.
Books have been written over the years about epidemics/pandemics/contagions, including our own Geraldine Brooks’ Year of wonders. This is historical fiction inspired by the Derbyshire village of Eyam which, when struck by the plague in 1666, quarantined itself to prevent the spread of disease. An interesting read in the light of what’s happening now. But, my favourite of them all is Albert Camus’ The plague (which I’ve read a few times, including since blogging, so here’s my review!) Camus explores the three main responses to plague – rebel, escape and accept – through the actions of his various characters. Rebelling, of the right sort, is his preferred approach. Read it if you haven’t already! In the end though, whatever happens, I’m hoping that what the lovely Dr Rieux says proves true with our COVID-19 experience:
… what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.
Finally, if you are finding it difficult to cope with the stresses of the current situation, there’s always Up Lit (check my post from 2018 to get you started.) Seriously, though, many jurisdictions have their helplines, including, in Australia, Lifeline (13 11 14). Do call the one most appropriate to you if you find the impact of isolation or just overall worry about COVID-19 starting to seriously affect your mental health. It’s not easy right now, and we all want to come out healthy and ready to go on the other side.
Take care and be safe my blog friends.