Sebastian and Rain lament lock-down and their inability to read

church closed due to Covid-19

Like everyone else living through the pandemic, Sebastian and Rain are shaken by what’s going on. A banana might be involved.

If you’ve been around a while, you might remember Sebastian and Rain, my writer half and my reader half. Usually they rant or rave about books and occasionally throw grapes at each other, but it turns out they have opinions about other things as well.

I’ll hand over to let them explain.

Sebastian: I should start by saying this was not my idea. I wanted to have a nice literary discussion about a book.

Rain: Do we ever have “nice literary discussions” about books?

Sebastian: You don’t. You just babble about whether the characters were fun to hang out with and whether there were enough dragons. Literary merit never comes up.

Sebastian breaks the end off a banana and peels it down one side.

Rain: And you think having literary merit means it’s okay for a book to be a snooze. I’m allowed to have opinions about books that have nothing to do with the beauty of their prose.

Sebastian: Your opinions are wrong. You thought Fifty Shades of Grey was hilarious.

Rain: It was, but that was Alecia, not me.

Sebastian: We’re never going to get to the point if you don’t shut up.

He uses a knife and fork to flatten the banana peel under the banana flesh.

Sebastian: As I was trying to say, with so much else going on in the world–

Rain: I haven’t left the house in five weeks. Five weeks!

Thou shalt not pass.

Sebastian: Have some patience–there’s a pandemic going on. Though I admit it’s been a challenge, and we have it easy compared with some people. Don’t think I’m belittling the struggles so many people are going through.

Rain: No one thinks that.

Sebastian: All right, I’ll say it. I thought I’d have a lot of time to read during lock-down, but it’s hard to focus on what I’m reading. Maybe because the real world is so loud, it’s hard for imaginary worlds to drown it out.

Sebastian cuts the banana into regular slices.

Rain: That’s a nice way of putting it and it’s exactly how I feel. When I read I’m not getting sucked in emotionally, and I can’t tell if it’s the book or me.

Sebastian: You mean like The Ninth Rain?

Rain: It has so much going for it–characters with real personality, incredible fantasy worldbuilding, peril at a world as well as a personal scale… But I read for fifteen minutes and then I get itchy and have to wander off and do something else. Is something wrong with me?

Sebastian: Yes.

Rain: You didn’t have to answer so fast.

Sebastian: It’s a hard time for everyone. Some people have it really tough, and everyone else has it somewhat tough and feels guilty about not being affected worse.

Rain: I don’t feel guilty.

Sebastian: When you whine about the fact you haven’t dyed your hair in three months, you don’t feel bad that hundreds of thousands of people have died and more don’t know where their next meal is coming from?

Rain: And I haven’t had a haircut in nearly a year.

Sebastian gives Rain a hard look.

Rain: Fine, I feel guilty. I feel guilty about everything. I feel guilty about not being able to enjoy what I think might be great books.

I feel like this railway station is missing something.

Sebastian: We could try reading them again after the apocalypse is over.

Rain: You mean when we’re living in a post-apocalyptic world?

Sebastian: How long have you been waiting to say that?

Rain: A long time.

Sebastian skewers a slice of banana with his fork and offers it to Rain.

Rain: Are you eating a banana using cutlery?

Sebastian: Just because we’ve stopped showering every day and only change our clothes once a week, there’s no reason to be uncivilised.

Are Sebastian and Rain the only ones whose ability to enjoy books has been broken by the pandemic? What’s up with that?

Hear more from Sebastian and Rain. They do usually talk about books.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

10 thoughts on “Sebastian and Rain lament lock-down and their inability to read”

  1. I feel a little better knowing Rain is having the same problems with focus and reading that I am. I’m solidly in the camp Sebastian describes: “everyone else has it somewhat tough and feels guilty about not being affected worse.” It’s chronically unsettling to know that there is a worldwide disaster unfolding and also that I can’t go to my favorite cafe, and yet outside the birds are singing and the vineyards are bursting with new growth and everything looks fine. Except it’s not, it’s not at all. Could this be why I’m having such a tough slog through Hilary Mantel’s latest book? It’s really, really good, but my brain . . . just . . . can’t . . .

    1. Rain is pleased to know she made you feel a bit better, and asked me to pass on that she misses her favourite cafe too.

      I think you might have hit something – in all the apocalypse movies, you look outside and it looks like an apocalypse (overturned cars, walking dead people etc). But we read the news and hear terrible things, then look outside and see trees and birds, and it doesn’t compute. So maybe all our brains are saying is “does not compute”.

  2. I’m switching to comic books for awhile to see if that helps. If it doesn’t, I’ll just give up and watch TV. I’ve watched a lot of movies lately. I might start rewatching The Office.

    1. You can still concentrate for a whole movie?! I try to watch movies, but mostly I get bored and start doing something else halfway through. The only thing I’ve found that I can focus on is (awfully rude and cringe-worthy) British stand-up comedy.

  3. I agree with Rain, reading is hard at the moment. TV seems so much easier, maybe because I don’t have to visualise what’s happening, it’s all there on screen and requires less focus. The only time I’ve managed to lose myself in a book recently was when I had a headache and couldn’t focus on anything else. I binge read for hours and it was wonderful!

    1. Who would have thought a headache would help with reading?! Sorry you had a headache, but binge reading for hours sounds fantastic.

      I even have trouble concentrating on TV. A 20-minute episode of something is about my limit. :/

  4. I feel that I ought to feel terrible about all the deaths etc but I just can’t. Basically, I just can’t fake empathy any more. I blame my time working on help desks and in call centres.

    1. I don’t think human brains are designed to comprehend this many deaths. We’re devastated by the death of an individual, but we don’t experience the statistics of mass deaths the same way. It’s probably a protection mechanism or something. I doubt your empathy is broken.

      1. If my empathy isn’t broken then it’s certainly not working as well as it should.

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