La pause café
Photo by Roger Parry
La pause café
Photo by Roger Parry
The following Pandemic Reading list of books are our literary picks addressing race, love, dominant governments, and the effects of a plague.
Sure, you’ve read article after article and watched countless you tube videos about COVID and the Spanish Flu of 1917 – we’re all experts by now. But have you actually read anything of sustenance, with brilliant characters, exceptional prose and in-depth analysis of why we live and die, and how communities navigate through such perils?
The following list of books are our literary picks, addressing questions of race, love, death and dominant governments, and the effect on national borders after a plague hits. Authors include Mary Shelley, Albert Camus, Daniel Defoe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Yuri Hererra, Michael Crichton, and more.
The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years,’ by Sonia Shah
“Sonia Shah’s tour-de-force history of malaria will convince you that the real soundtrack to our collective fate … is the syncopated whine-slap, whine-slap of man and mosquito duking it out over the eons,” Abigail Zuger wrote in The Times.
From 1665 to 1666, bubonic plague returned to Britain and devastated the city of London — killing roughly one quarter of its population in the span of 18 months. “[I]t was generally in such houses that we heard the most dismal shrieks and outcries of the poor people, terrified and even frighted to death by the sight of the condition of their dearest relations, and by the terror of being imprisoned as they were.”
Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter (1939)
Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider is set around the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and focuses on a young woman falling in love with a soldier, as both influenza and World War I loom ominously. As novelist Alice McDermott makes clear in her commentary on the novel, it’s a book that hasn’t lost its contemporary resonance.
The Plague by Albert Camus (1947)
As befits a novel with the archetypal title The Plague, there are multiple ways one can interpret Camus’s 1947 work. Writing in the Guardian in 2015, journalist and war correspondent Ed Vulliamy contends it can be read in two ways: first, as a metaphor for the horrors of fascism; and second, as an allusion to a cholera epidemic in Algeria in 1849.
A group of scientists deal with an epidemic caused by an extraterrestrial microorganism — one that’s constantly evolving and has no precedent in human history.
“Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people,” Gabriel García Márquez told the New York Times in 1988. “They seem to have a quality of destiny.” In the same interview, he spoke of his fondness for Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, and how it was one of the inspirations for this decades-spanning tale of star-crossed lovers, where death is never far from the reader’s mind.
The novel uses a widespread outbreak of a constantly mutating virus to critique conservative responses to HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. “For twenty years, sex and death were inexorably intertwined,” writes an fictional editor at the beginning of Spinrad’s book — what follows are an arrangement of voices, each struggling with literal questions of life and death.
“Over time I have realized that the disease comes in spurts,” writes the narrator of Bellatin’s short novel Beauty Salon. It’s set in a world devastated by a pandemic affecting only men, leading to their rapid deaths in the face of governmental inaction. The novel’s narrator runs a beauty salon, which becomes a hospice for those afflicted.
Adrian’s fiction blends his own career in medicine alongside the mythological and fantastical. In his second novel, The Children’s Hospital, a plague called the Botch emerges after a series of events, some apocalyptic, some miraculous. Adrian “wants to know why people die, what meaning can be divined from their lives and their ends, and whether anything lies beyond. ”
Herrera’s fiction is often set near the border between the United States and Mexico. The Transmigration of Bodies follows a familiar noir scenario — two crime families at war in a single town, during the aftereffects of a deadly plague.
To eight-year old Bunny Morison, his mother is an angelic comforter in whose absence nothing is real or alive. To his older brother, Robert, his mother is someone he must protect, especially since the deadly, influenza epidemic of 1918 is ravaging their small Midwestern town. To James Morison, his wife, Elizabeth, is the center of a life that would disintegrate all too suddenly were she to disappear
In August 1854, many poor Londoners “suddenly took sick and began dying. Their symptoms included upset stomach, vomiting, gut cramps, diarrhea and racking thirst. Whatever the cause, it was fast — fast to kill (sometimes within 12 hours of onset) and fast in spreading to new victims,” David Quammen wrote in his review of this fascinating and detailed account of the city’s worst cholera epidemic. “Seventy fatalities occurred in a 24-hour period, most within five square blocks, and hundreds more people were in danger.”
Set at the end of the twenty-first century, The Last Man is a moving and fantastical account of the apocalypse. Faced with a populace clamoring for more democratic rule, the last king of England relinquishes his throne. Suddenly a mysterious plague sweeps the globe, drawing ever nearer to England. As war, disease, and death ravage humanity, ideals of fairness and love are quickly supplanted by the imperative of survival.
“I am grateful for winter. It reminds us that everyone and everything needs some quiet time”- Katrina Mayer.
📸 by Gabriel Garcia Marengo
#photography ♥️ #silence #winternights #fireplace #family #love #winter2020 #winter
Valentines is upon us and we are yet again, barraged with hearts, fluffy animals, sickening chocolates and expectations that some of us feel obligated to complete… ugh! We are all familiar with the famous tale of cute little Cupid, but how about an evil, or, not so cute version? Even the gods have been known to perform a little strip tease, spy on others in the bathroom, drink too much, or teach the shepherds how to masturbate. Even Santa has an evil counterpart – Krampus.
There were four females appearing simply as sex goddesses or specifically as the Lxcuiname, a word of doubtful meaning. We are told that the Lxcuiname in early times came up from the Gulf coast to Tula, bringing a cult act wherein Huaxtec warriors who had been captured were shot to death with arrows. The Lxcuiname were looked upon as the wives of those who were about to be sacrificed in that fashion.
These four sisters were individually named the Oldest, the Younger, the Middle One, and the Youngest, names which easily became appended to women who were prone to sexual excesses. When merged into one, the
four sisters became Lxcuina, patroness of prostitutes and loose women and also wife of the lord of the dead. Adulterous women and prostitutes who wished to cleanse themselves of the stain attached to their improprieties could go at midnight to crossroads (the haunt of the Lxcuiname), disrobe, and depart naked-thus leaving their sins behind them. Nevertheless, these four stands for more than mere sexual desire, for their mythology states that they were present as a sisterhood in the darkness which preceded the first rising of the fifth sun and that they, along with Mimixcoa, represent the stars.
This studly Greek fertility god is well known for his sexual prowess, and is typically portrayed with an impressively erect phallus. Pan learned about self-gratification via masturbation from Hermes, and passed the lessons along to shepherds. His Roman counterpart is Faunus. Pan is a distinctly sexual god, often described in legends regarding his lusty adventures.
This young god was most likely a god of love, youthful beauty and poetic inspiration. At one time, Aenghus went to a magical lake and found 150 girls chained together — one of them was the girl he loved, Caer Ibormeith. All the other girls were magically turned into swans every second Samhain, and Aenghus was told he could marry Caer if he was able to identify her as a swan. Aengus succeeded, and turned himself into a swan so he could join her. They flew away together, singing exquisite music that lulled its listeners to sleep.
An ancient Egyptian God whose cult originated in the predynastic period (4th millennium BCE). He was represented in many different forms, but was most often represented in male human form, shown with an erect penis which he holds in his left hand and an upheld right arm holding a flail. As Khem or Min, he was the god of reproduction; as Khnum, he was the creator of all things, “the maker of gods and men”.
Yue Lao, otherwise known as “The Man under the Moon,” is a popular figure in Chinese mythology, as he is the matchmaker and overseer of heterosexual marriage. Widely connected with the red thread of destiny, Yue Lao is often seen as benevolent deity, binding two people’s hearts together in love and marriage.
The best known story involving Yue Lao is that of Wei Gu and his quest to find a wife. After years of unsuccessful attempts, Wei Gu came upon Yue Lao reading from the book of marriages. Insisting he know who his future wife was, Wei Gu was shown a vision of an old woman with a young child, living in poverty. Distraught that the old woman was to be his wife, Wei Gu ordered his servant to kill the young child, though she escaped serious injury. After years passed, he finally found a suitable wife and noticed she had a scar. When Wei Gu asked about it, he was astonished to find that she had been the young child he tried to have killed (although he probably never told her; some secrets are best kept hidden).
Baron La Croix is often seen wearing a black tailcoat and carrying an elaborate cane. He is the ultimate suave and sophisticated spirit of Death – quite cultured and debonair. He has an existential philosophy about death, finding death’s reason for being both humorous and absurd. Baron La Croix is the extreme expression of individuality, and offers to you the reminder of delighting in life’s pleasures.
A relatively minor deity of Chinese mythology, Tu Er Shen—or Hu Tianbao, as he was known when he was mortal—is the god of homosexual love and marriage. Born during the Qing dynasty, Hu Tianbao found himself attracted to an official of the local government, spying on him naked through a hole in his bathroom wall. When his peeping was discovered, Tianbao was beaten to death. Moved by his unrequited love, the gods of the underworld took pity on him and restored him to life as the deity of homosexual relationships.
Perhaps because they were used as a slang term for homosexual men, rabbits are considered a symbol of homoerotic love in China, and Tu Er Shen is often depicted as a rabbit in the few shrines dedicated to him. Sadly, in many of the places where he is worshiped, homosexual activity remains a punishable criminal offense.
One of the most popular, and longest-lasting, of the Egyptian goddesses, Hathor was mentioned as early as the second dynasty (around 2890-2686 BC), and perhaps even before that. Since she survived for so long, Hathor took on a number of roles, including spells as the goddess of love, beauty, mining, and music. However, it was her time as the
Eye of Ra which led to her most interesting stories. The Eye of Ra is the term Egyptians used for the feminine counterpart to Ra, a role filled by a number of goddesses, including Ra’s daughter, Hathor.
Found in King Tut’s tomb, a story known as “The Destruction of Mankind” tells of a time when Hathor, at Ra’s insistence, became the war goddess Sekhmet in order to punish humans for their sinful ways. When the bloodthirsty goddess got out of control, Ra tried to stop his daughter—but failed. Just before she killed every last person on Earth, Ra managed to get her drunk. Hathor immediately forgot what she was doing and returned to normal. In another, possibly equally disturbing story, she performed a striptease for her father in order to cheer him up.
Tlazolteotl (Whose name can be variously translated as “Earth Goddess,” “Filth Goddess” or “Dirt Goddess”) is the Aztec and Toltec Goddess of guilty pleasures, Who both inspires and forgives carnal acts. She is a love and earth Goddess Who is said to remove sins from Her worshippers by absorbing them into Herself. The punishment for adultery under harsh Aztec law was death; but if the offender confessed to Tlazolteotl he or she was absolved and the law would not touch them. However, a person was only allowed one confession per lifetime, so people would leave it as long as they could