In Defense of Reading Recklessly During NYC’s Quarantine
By: Peter Krause, Ph.D. Candidate, Fordham University Department of English
Estimated Reading Time: 12–15 minutes (Long, I know. But, c’mon, we’re social distancing: you’ve got the time).
Note: Included throughout this essay are 50 or so hyperlinked names and titles that will take you to the website of a NYC area bookstore with that author or book in stock. Should you feel compelled to order a volume or a gift card, bookish boutiques in all five boroughs, as well as a few in New Jersey, Westchester, and Long Island, will thank you. (I started this piece last week, so it’s pure coincidence that this article about patronizing non-Amazon online bookstores during COVID appeared this week in the New York Times.) There are some truly fantastic bookshops in this city, including landmarks like The Strand and Book Culture and gems further afield like The Lit Bar in the South Bronx and Topos Books in Bushwick. I’ve even included the Barnes and Noble at Union Square and Amazon Books at Columbus Circle because, though they may wear the corporate albatross, these outposts employ booksellers, sell books, and encourage the life of the mind, as all great bookstores do. If you prefer small, independent shops, please explore the other 48 suggestions. What follows is all at once anecdote, argument, and invitation to discover neat brick-and-mortar bookshops that desperately need our support now so that they continue to charm, inform, and inspire us post-COVID.
I’ll admit it: like many students, I haven’t done the assigned reading.
Well, that’s not exactly true. While social distancing, I’ve done some of the assigned reading in intermittent bursts, often haphazardly. With my dissertation in mind, I’ll re-read 100 pages of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Then, I’ll put it down mid-paragraph, pick up Phil Klay’s Redeployment, and open to a vignette at random. Mid-sentence something will unexpectedly “click.” Perhaps you know the experience I’m describing.
Possessed by a writerly clarity in the most cliché, movie-montage sense, I will launch into an hour or two of concentrated work on my proposal, eagerly consulting the essays and fictions that my advisors and I have agreed are most vital to my claims. In a nutshell, I submit that 9/11 and the War on Terror initiated in the Anglophone novel…