Diary of an Optimist: the essential guide to the true essentials | The Canberra Times


I don’t want to get too personal but – toilet paper?! Essential? Really? Of all the things to panic buy, why toilet paper? There are vast tracts of the planet where toilet paper is inessential and even thought to be a clogger of drains and a promoter of disease. But as an optimistic counter to that disturbing thought, it is a relief that we are buying more of the true essentials – essentials like good books. Now, it seems, is the time to read that dreary classic you always meant to. So, which one in our time of plague? The Plague by Albert Camus? I wouldn’t. Frankly, I’d rather push hat-pins in my eyes. A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe? Maybe. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Definitely. Marquez said “Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people”, and that rings true. Reading in tough times seems to be a common pattern. Book sales grew every year in the Great Depression. READ MORE: Book-reading rises to escape from coronavirus reality According to Wired in the United States, they have been up in April. It cites the market research company NPD: “The book market has historically performed well during times of economic downturn, and our first six weeks have shown us that there is unlikely to be a catastrophic cliff in demand for books.” It turns out that many of us regard a book as an essential, and that is a true ground for optimism. As Twitter and the fakery of Facebook palls, we are getting back into books. Or some of us are. I’m certainly better read now than I have been in years. We are rediscovering old ways we should never have lost – like reading a book. This optimistic thought helps push the pessimists into the shade. It’s true that panic buying of toilet paper remains an unpleasant piece of evidence in the balance between optimism and pessimism. It is depressing that people panic buy what other people panic buy. Don’t talk to me about “herd immunity” – “herd stupidity” more like. I point no fingers. I have bought hard-back books recently when I wouldn’t have six months ago. They feel so comforting. But I also have to admit that in a spirit of experiment, I bought twelve rolls of “Liu Lang, Soft” from China. They will sit on a shelf unopened as a reminder of the madness of sane people. I may get them mounted and sell them as an art installation.


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