Literature for Fun

Has there ever been a better time for reading and online cultural discovery? I was lucky enough to get to the library before lockdown and grab a good handful of books to keep me going. It’s certainly a good time to have an ereader, even if it cannot match the physical experience of flicking through the pages of a real book. I heard a rumour that Amazon is going to suspend book sales during the crisis, so that may give a lifeline to real bookshops who can deliver – a silver lining to the cloud.

The last post featured Poet Laureate Simon Armitage. As he holds that position, he has written a poem called ‘Lockdown’, which refers to ‘star-crossed lovers on either side/of the quarantine line’. He was on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row earlier in the week, talking about isolation and ways to survive it, including recommending poets’ work that it is good to turn to. Here’s the podcast of the episode; Armitage is the first item and the poem ‘Lockdown’ is printed on the programme page.

But at times like these, we also need a bit of light relief, so, in a highly unusual move for me, I’m going to be recommending comedy, and the archetypal English comedy of PG Wodehouse, steeped in class satire. Here’s one of his famous Jeeves stories: My-Man-Jeeves If you’ve never come across him, Jeeves is the imperturbable and subtle butler to the hapless and witless gentleman Bertie Wooster, and has to rescue him from all kinds of scrapes. It’s gentle, unmalicious fun. Years ago in a television adaptation, Hugh Laurie played Bertie and Stephen Fry was Jeeves. Here’s an episode for you to enjoy.

If Jeeves isn’t your thing, what about nonsense poetry? Yes; crazy, bizarre, for-the-fun-of-it poetry? There was no better exponent than Edward Lear, who really created the genre. I’m sure you’ll have heard of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’, for example, who went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat, but this one even starts with a funny title, ‘The Dong with a Luminous Nose‘:

In other forms of entertainment, here’s an article about the range of theatre and dance shows that are being made available online. It’s great to see how theatres and galleries are responding to their closure by opening up on the internet in order to maintain life in the fantastic resources that they offer.

Although I have tried to make this a cheerful missive, I know that some of you, or members of your family, are unwell. I am sure we all join together in wishing you and affected family members a full and speedy recovery.