Among those in a privileged enough position to be safe and sane(ish), there’s a collective feeling that this is life now.
Despite everything still being completely f*cked, spending more time alone than Tom Hanks in Castaway, and shopping trips feeling like a cross between Supermarket Sweep and Black Mirror, we’re kind of settling into lockdown life.
One of the hardest parts, we’ve found, is lack of spontaneity. Weeks are a blob, so we have to switch them up best we can. Fortunately, we don’t always have to stay in this world.
We can step into new ones, where parallel universes exist. We can eat up a person’s life story, or an entire slice of history, in one afternoon.
We can indulge in a less harmful pastime than being in public: reading books. Here are some of our fact, fiction and fantasy favourites.
For when you feel like a holiday to Tim Burton’s brain:
The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton
‘’The final gasp of his short life
Was sickly with despair.
Whoever thought that you could die
From breathing outdoor air?’’
A Disturbia-kind-of-comfort-read, Tim Burton’s self-illustrated anthology of bittersweet fairytales soothes the soul in lonely times and feels oddly close-to-home (see: Oyster Boy Steps Out).
Binge on deliciously dark drawings, with tales such as ‘The Girl who Turned into a Bed’, ‘The Boy with Nails for Eyes’, and a story involving Santa Claus delivering wickedly inappropriate gifts.
Each poem takes you on a mind-holiday to meet weird and wonderful misfits created by the brain behind Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. And while they’re all creepy AF, you’ll probably want to give them a cuddle… if they didn’t have sharp things sticking out of them.
For when you’re craving a cosy, creepy classic:
Dracula by Bram Stoker
“The world seems full of good men, even if there are monsters in it.”
We like our vampires to be evil and stay evil. And the only way to satisfy that kind of bloodlust is to go back to their roots. To 1897, when Bram Stoker created Dracula. When vampires weren’t heroes, but a reflection of the cursed nature within us all.
Through a series of atmospheric journals, letters and papers, this gothic novel delivers the core of the vampire. It’s less about stakes and superpowers and more about Dracula’s presence. Your relationship with Dracula. One you can feel in your blood and your bones…
For when you need to reconnect with yourself, your world and your ancestors:
Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic by Lisa Lister
"Why do we have to remember that we are powerful? Why have we forgotten? Why do we remember, then forget all over again? Why do we have to wake and reclaim the witch now more than ever before? Patriarchy."
All women are witches - a truth that lies heavily in these pages. This book serves as a reminder and a rousing not to fear the witch. For to fear the witch, we fear our own power (which was, and still is, exactly how patriarchal propaganda works).
You’ll find all the handy lists of herbs, crystals, cycles, power animals, spells and rituals to enhance your intuition here. But the book is more than that - it’s a manifesto of sisterhood, self-love and healing, in a world that often feels meaningless and out of control.
For days you feel like venturing into your strange and murky consciousness:
Psychology and the Occult by Carl Jung
“There are strange and wondrous things in these lands of darkness. Please don’t worry about my wanderings in these infinitudes. I shall return laden with rich booty for our knowledge of the human psyche. For a while longer I must intoxicate myself on magic perfumes in order to fathom the secrets that lie hidden in the abysses of the unconscious.”
This irresistible classic, first published in 1982, is essential reading for anyone interested in psychology and paranormal phenomena.
The legendary psychoanalyst takes you on a journey into the dark, obscure corners of the unconscious mind, kicking off with a fifteen-year-old girl who claimed to regularly communicate with her dead friends and family.
You’ll love Carl Jung’s tales of his own haunting experiences.
You’ll love his take on subjects such as life after death, telepathy, premonitions, sorcery and ghosts.
You’ll especially love how Jung and Freud privately refer to occultism as “spookery”.
It’s a fascinating, nocturnal ride for fans of Jung, allowing you to explore the murky realms of human consciousness. And if you’re a doubter, it’s still pretty bloody hard to resist those intoxicating magic perfumes - especially when there’s nowhere else to go but inside our minds.
For weekends spent summoning the Devil:
The Satanic Rituals by Anton Szandor LaVey
[The figure of Cthulhu appears.]
We’d like to say you should use this isolation period to finally get to grips with War and Peace. Alas! If you’d prefer a more enjoyable intellectual pursuit, or want to sharpen up your Satanism, we’d recommend The Satanic Rituals in a blackened heartbeat.
Written in 1972 by the High Priest of the Church of Satan, this little black book of devilry gives you a behind-the-curtain look into the occultist and his spiritual theatre.
Our personal favourite chapter is the “Call to Cthulhu”, where LaVey literally writes a ceremonial ritual to summon Lovecraft’s deity.
Satanist or not, you’ll love it.
For seeing the beauty in life… and death:
Japanese Death Poems by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death, compiled by Yoel Hoffman
a mound of gleaming bones:
a flowering and
Japanese monks die beautifully. An odd compliment to pay, but we’re wholly sincere. Death is a big part of life in Japan. And death poems - a practice that originates in Zen Buddhism - may just be our favourite genre of poetry.
There’s something calming and therapeutic about absorbing a person’s entire life, in the fleeting moments before death, written in a few lines. No talk of the ‘brave battles’ or ramped-up melodrama we read in western death literature.
This book will open you up to the world of death poems and Japanese poetry as a whole. It’ll give you a zest to live life consciously - because you soon learn what’s actually important from the poets staring the strange phenomena of death in the mouth.