Contributors to the Review share how they’re spending their time while social distancing.
I first drifted into the Father Brown and Miss Fisher television series in 2018, while under the effects of pain medication and postsurgical malaise. Even though my family and I are safely housed, and my own case of Covid-19 has been relatively mild, I see the shadow of prolonged illness all around us, and I’ve instinctively returned to my cozy mysteries. The traditional cozy is a soft-boiled whodunit featuring an amateur sleuth operating within an intimate community, mostly outside the traditional police force.
I often get tired of talking (especially to my mother—sorry mom!!) but three times a week, over FaceTime, my mother and I do a workout she found online, something she calls “Lisa’s Lungetime Special.” It’s a way to be together without relying on conversation, which so often falls flat. I’ve also very occasionally done some strength training videos, and have been attending livestreamed yoga classes near daily. Now daily life seems to require confronting an entanglement of mind and body that I have long avoided.
With this year’s Cannes Film Festival canceled, the Criterion Channel is revisiting the last edition that was also called off. Amid widespread demonstrations against the firing of Cinémathèque Française founder Henri Langlois for confounding the officious culture minister André Malraux, Cannes shut down midway through its 1968 festival. Criterion marks the occasion with a half-dozen movies that had been selected for the competition that year.
Three years ago, a foodie friend recommended the 1985 Japanese film Tampopo, a self-styled “ramen western.” I wasn’t a foodie and I didn’t much care for ramen, so I ignored him. Now dinner has become the thrilling climax of every locked-down day, and my most sensual aesthetic encounters come from the watermelon radishes and candy cane beets that I buy at the farmer’s market. This weekend, I realized that the time had come for me to watch Tampopo—after dinner, of course.
By the time the eight-week course was over, I was the wretch I am now: an unhinged woman vehemently obsessed with oil painting who wrestles with it like a feral person for hours every day. I had earth-moving revelations as I graduated from using makeup brushes to real sable, and switched from canvas to linen panels. My formerly adorable kitchen now looks as though Francis Bacon had assaulted a pope in it. I know things about linseed oil its own mother doesn’t know.
I’ve been making collages in consecutive series determined by physical constraint: a ledger, a stenographer’s notebook, mounted industrial photographs, a deck of lotto cards. I have a vast trove of imagery to draw upon: the disbound and damaged books I collected, the New York Post headlines I hoarded, half-shredded movie posters from the Nineties, the wildly random ephemera gleaned from the book-exchange table at my local supermarket. Collage is a scavenger’s art: it forms the dead matter of the past into combinations that could only occur in the present; it builds a future from ruins.