Quiet Desperation

Pandemic diversion is one for the books


A man past sixty living alone with a small dog walks to his guest room where a little library of fiction is kept and scans the spines for an option to read as the second year of a pandemic has him climbing the walls like Gregor Samsa.

See how many of the titles he had to choose from you can name. For a complete list, write to the email address below.

1. Written by a woman, this book, later the source of several films (as are a number of entries in the list), tells the story of a young scientist who creates a sapient creature.

2. “A dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.”

3. It focuses on four anthropomorphized animals, is beautifully illustrated (mine by E.H. Shepard), is considered a children’s book, but is enjoyed by readers of all ages. One of the characters, a European water vole, goes by the name “Rat.”

4. The main character’s surname is Smith. Where he lives the clocks twice a day strike thirteen.

5. “He made the fish fast to bow and stern and to the middle thwart. He was so big it was like lashing a much bigger skiff alongside.”

6. Its major theme is the destructiveness of war, is “science-fiction infused,” and follows the life of an American soldier named Billy who sometimes travels through time.

7. Perhaps my favorite ending: “He turned and walked across the floor and out. I watched the door close. I listened to his steps going away down the imitation marble corridor. After a while they got faint, then got silent. I kept on listening anyway. What for? Did I want him to stop suddenly and turn and come back and talk me out of the way I felt? Well, he didn’t. That was the last I saw of him.”

Written by one of my favorites authors, made into a film, as were several of his other books, but not as successful.

8. A short, only 24,505 words, potent story about the wife of the owner of a “roadside sandwich joint” and a drifter who is smitten by her.

9. She sells evening gloves at Neiman-Marcus.

10. In a “magical realist style” it tells a “multi-generational story” in the fictional town of Mocondo.

11. A first novel published in 1970; Lorain, Ohio; young Black girl; desires blue eyes.

12. Another main character name Smith, only this one is a Martian. By the way, my middle name breaks down into “Mars Hall.”

13. This one is too easy, but it’s the author’s most famous: “A diabolical dog” that’s not Harry causes problems on an English moorland.

14. I’d tell you where the book is set but the location is in the title. There’s a cave, an accusation, a trial, a recant, and a happy ending. It didn’t do much for me in high school when it was required reading.

15. It’s a 1930 detective novel originally serialized in the magazine “Black Mask” that’s been made into several film versions, the most famous released 80 years ago.

16. Written by the same author, a more light-hearted detective novel featuring a wealthy married couple who try to locate a missing inventor who is light on his feet.

How did you do?

Henry Ward Beecher said, “Where is human nature more weak than in a bookstore?”

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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