• Becca Dzombak

corona-tine dispatch 9: the aspirational reading pile I carry around my house all day

Updated: Jul 21


I can’t be the only one who carries around an aspirational reading pile. Before quarantine, it was an occasional habit limited mainly to weekends or vacations or weeks when my partner was out of town and I was focusing on “not watching six hours of Netflix every night” lest I “fall into a greasy funk so self-perpetuating and horrible that he wouldn’t recognize me from behind the piles of dishes on the coffee table.” In the Before Times, the ‘pile’ was a book - physical (preferred) or kindle (begrudgingly) - my phone, and maybe a notebook if I was feeling Creative. (Or list-y. Not listless, but list-Y, which is what I call the whirling mindset I get into when there’s too much in my brain, and the only way I can stop trying to remember it all and organize my thoughts is in a list.) I carried the book/kindle around with the goal of curling up with it instead of ‘Netflix and despair.’ But most of the time, it merely served as a physical reminder of my laziness and how much I used to read, how grad school ruined reading and takes up all my time, how I should really be reading hard-hitting nonfic instead of another lady comedian’s memoirs, etc. Sometimes it worked though, and I’d end up sitting on the couch, slumping further into a Stress Position as time passed by me, until it was 2 a.m. and I’d finished the essays/thriller/biography of Alan Turing (jk, that one’s been sitting at ⅓ since December 2016 because it’s like 700 literal pages and while I’m all for Queer In STEM Stories, I gave up reading it when it got waaay too into the details of cryptography to take in on a cozy Saturday morning), and I’d go to bed at last with a pain in my neck but a satisfied comfort in my soul. Reading!


Anyway. Now, in Quarantine Land, my pile has grown weightier - physically and… metaphysically? My current stack is a great book about voter suppression (falls under both ‘heavy nonfic’ AND ‘white guilt-driven book purchases* of May-June 2020’), two magazines (Bitch’s Fantasy issue and the July/August Atlantic - which I am finally actually reading - as well as my iPad (for reading the Atlantic digitally, and also twitter), my phone (because quarantine has literally made me addicted to social media), and also a nalgene with half a nuun fizzing away because it’s been 95 degrees for like two weeks and you gotta stay hydrated.


It’s a good pile and, like I said, I’ve actually read some of the articles in the Atlantic. I’m not trying to brag, but also, I am, because the previous four months are basically serving as coasters on my tiny desk at home. I’ve read some stuff on their app, but it doesn’t feel as legit as sitting on my deck in the “cool” (75 degrees and 99.999% humidity) morning, sipping my (iced and rapidly-melting) coffee, and paging through the actual magazine. This is why I hope print doesn’t totally die - the experience just isn’t the same. It’s like a pre-curated reading list that you don’t have complete control over, unlike basically everything else in our media consumption behaviors. I mean sure, you pick what magazines you buy, but still - would I have thought to read up on the details of the produce supply chain in NYC without an article on an “originally legit low key grocer-turned upscale producier (I’m making that word up)-turned expanding too quickly chain-turned apparently bankrupt by the corporate suits who are in charge of it now” in a physical magazine that trapped me into reading it because I can’t read a magazine out of order? (Is that normal? Is something wrong with me?). I also want print to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Teen Vogue for two selfish reasons - one, I’d like to be a Writer-writer after grad school, and two, my eyes can’t take any more screen time than they already get. I need to invest in some of those blue-tinted (or is it red?) glasses. Bring on the large-font books.


So I’ve been reading more in quarantine, yes, and The Reading Pile I cart around from the bed to the coffee table, then to the deck for the aforementioned reading time, back inside to the coffee table when I realize it’s noon and 103,000 degrees in the sun, then back to the deck later when it drops below 90 and I have to seize the opportunity to spend some time outside even if it’s still 99.998% humidity**, then finally back inside to the coffee table and bed when the sun drops too far below the horizon and the mosquitoes swarm. The Midwest really is lovely, isn’t it? I can’t wait to leave.

Pictured here: actually reading my print issue of The Atlantic, learning about our inevitable economic doom.

*I spent waaaay too much on fancy hardcover hot-off-the-press books in the past quarter. (Nik, if you’re reading this, I lied - it was definitely more than that.) Good thing books appreciate value so well!!!

**Okay so I just checked, it’s only 65% humidity right now but the “feels like” is still 91, and somehow it still feels like a relief from earlier today. Seriously, I’m done with continental interior summers.

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