Do you wake up every day as I do, to a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when clouds hang oppressively low in the heavens, and a crushing despair is strangling your soul, because your country is being led by an amoral, self-interested, ignorant, and possibly demented old man with his finger on the nuclear button?
Ok, true, the best solution for this feeling for each one of us to vote in the mid-terms, and volunteer at a phone bank or two, and do everything you can to avert this Apocalypse by voting them out in November.
But also, you could use some REALLY GOOD ESCAPIST LITERATURE just about now.
So here you go–my recommended required reading for times exactly like this one.
FIRST: READ ANYTHING BY POE. You probably haven’t thought of him for decades. Start with the lovely love story, Berenice, and then move on to the weirdest novel ever written, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. You will be so confused that you will momentarily forget your despair.
SECOND: Read PYM by Mat Johnson, which achieves the astounding outcome of making Poe’s novel funny. Best if read immediately following The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Pay attention to the dog backstory for best results.
Novelist Tommy Orange mentions this novel in his 2018 novel, There There, in a somewhat disparaging way. Too bad. OMG, this is the best escapist novel I have ever read. Published in 1854, it is probably the first novel written and published by a Native American author, John Rollins Ridge. It’s breathless and remarkable and pulpy and escapist but also it’s old enough to have become of interest to literary scholars who plumb its deeper meanings. Like in this essay, published in The Paris Review.
FINALLY, read Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg.
I could have also put The Wind in the Willows or The Wizard of Oz, both of which are so beautifully written that they should be required escapist re-reads every year of your life, but I picked this one thinking you may have missed reading it somehow as a kid, and you owe it to yourself to read these stories at least once. They are very strange. They don’t unfold the way they should. And in this way they will preoccupy you and dazzle you and make you forget there is any such thing as a bilious yellow-orange character charading as president just now.
-Lark Benobi, author of, and fan of escapist literature