Reviews

The things that are getting us through

CC's reviewers share their favourite imaginative escapes during the pandemic.

Dear reader: The end is in sight. Still, we’re not quite there yet. Dreaming of this pandemic’s end is a big help in getting though the fatigue and frustration of its latter days. Of course, that’s not the only helpful thing at our disposal. In this month’s review section, we thought it’d be great to have some regular CC reviewers share with you some of the imaginative things that are helping them through this moment. We often dismiss imaginative, escapist things – be they books, films, music – as frivolous, and even neglectful of important “real world” things. But in these lockdown days, defined as they are by one restriction after another, a dreamy plunge into the depths of our imagination can be such a balm. Maybe you’ll find something here that will help you do just that.

As for my household, we’ve spent dozens of afternoons working our way through the various Mario Brothers games on the Nintendo Switch. My kids are still a little too young to play, which means that dad gets to take the reins (aka the “joy-con”) and I get to recall some of that Mario-muscle memory I first developed back in the late 1980s. The kiddos sit on the couch, offering tips and strategies for how to beat the level (they have watched walk-throughs on Kids’ YouTube, and are happy to lend their expertise). Whether it’s the Moon Kingdom or the Mushroom Kingdom, or just one of the Mario Kart raceways, Mario’s adventures take him through some vibrant, goofy, dare I say psychotropic worlds. The locales linger in the imagination, even after the Nintendo is finally switched off; the kids often go outside afterward, armed with sidewalk chalk, and fill our driveway, sidewalk, and even the walls of our house with Koopa shells, Mystery Blocks, Piranha Plants and Fire Flowers.

After the kids are in bed, nothing beats a documentary. I love Ken Burns’ long form documentary series, and a few weeks back we watched his latest, a three part, six hour exploration of the life of Ernest Hemingway. Few writers are as compelling, maddening, prone to self-parody yet deeply influential as Hemingway. He looms over American literature, more myth than man, and so Burns’ patient and unflinching portrait is much appreciated. Actor Jeff Daniels is enlisted to read Hemingway’s famously unornamented prose throughout, and that alone makes the time investment worth it.

See what our reviewers are watching and reading:

  • Brian Is CC’s Review Editor and a CRC chaplain at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

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