During lockdown, reading and watching

Lockdown continues. Me and mine are safe and well, so no complaining allowed. Here’s what — and where — I’ve been reading and watching.

Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli. When this novel was first published I didn’t want to read it because it sounded too “of the moment” — a family travels to the Southwest and becomes involved in the child migration crisis. But I read it after a recommendation from my son (who had worried about the same.) I’m glad I did. This is an assured work of fiction. The author gives us a cobbled family: a man and his son, his newish wife and her daughter. The couple met documenting sound in New York City. (That alone grabbed me.) The husband has a grant to document sound at the graves and lands of Native Americans. The wife, the boy, the girl travel with him, by car, from New York to Arizona. This is a richly told story of a family and children lost, found, lost. It’s trippy in parts because the narrative is woven into texts about child migration. I loved this read.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. How did I miss this one? A true heir(ess) to Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Smith gives us the lush English countryside between the Wars and a once prosperous family in financial ruin. (First published in 1948.) How bad? They have no furniture left to sell, their clothes are ragged, they go to bed hungry. Our narrator is Cassandra, 17, who “captures” the story in her journal. (Much of the book is about writing.) Beautiful older sister Rose says she will do anything to improve their lot. The story takes off when two American men, heirs to the castle, arrive. I was smitten from Page One, and didn’t want this tale to end. And what an ending. 

Hidden Valley Road, Inside the Mind of An American Family, by Robert Kolker. Six schizophrenics in one family? Sounds like a nightmare, and it is. But this story is so much more. We learn the theories (nurture) and science (nature) of the disease. (Of course it’s the mother’s fault.) I’m half way through but confident this is a worthwhile read about an American family, an ambitious couple, their 12 children. The well ones suffer, too, especially the girls. This is narrative nonfiction at its best. Very impressive.

Speaking of schizophrenia, I’m watching I Know this Much is True on HBO. It’s the story of twin brothers, one of whom is schizophrenic. Mark Ruffalo plays both parts. The story is obvious and treacly at times but the acting! Oh my. Juliette Lewis steals the show playing a snobby academic who turns into a sad flirt. Kathryn Hahn is luminous as a grieving mother. Rosie O’Donnell — have I ever liked her in anything?— is solid as an administrator/advocate. Archie Panjabi plays a smart, calm psychiatrist. Mmm. 

I also liked Run on HBO, about college lovers who reunite. We’re watching Grant on the History channel. Also, classics I’ve never seen: What’s Up Doc? And All about Eve.

Isolation is hard, but it’s imperative to limit contact. My friend is an anesthesiologist in Chicago. She says that she and her colleagues are physically and emotionally exhausted — and still show up every day. Do your part to lighten their load. 

Also in the blog

The New York Times ran a provocative (well, it provoked me) article the other day on independent, super-expensive college counselors. Fees ran a high as $40,000. It wasn’t the cost that provoked me: it’s the fact that adults turn to a professional for one of parentings’ last and most satisfying adventures. Just when you think


My friend Jennifer and I beat the heat the other day and ducked in to a movie theater for a matinee. We’d both read tantalizing reviews of “I am Love” and couldn’t wait to see it. We weren’t disappointed. Movies like this don’t get made any more: beautifully filmed, slowly told, it was like watching


A very satisfying year in books. Below, my favorite reads. The Association of Small Bombs, by Karan Mahajan Characters linked by the devastation of a bomb set in a crowded marketplace. They grow up and old in surprising, unsettling ways.     Christodora, by Tim Murphy A sprawling read set in lower Manhattan, 1970’s to