(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Without book signings, festivals, talks, and fundraisers to attend, Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s got some time on her hands, as she notes at The Guardian. How is she passing time during lockdown? Why, thwarting squirrels, sewing face masks for health care workers, and conducting rubber chicken choirs. As one does.

Mary Beard, the two-fisted Cambridge classicist who understands crises, debacles and pandemics, being an authority on ancient Rome, asked me to do a remote item for the BBC Front Row Late show, which usually reviews theatre but now can’t because there isn’t any. “Just a little something,” she said, “as long as it’s on plagues.” This awakened the Kraken of my deep past – a childhood of reading horror literature, not only the Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook for proto-homemakers but also the collected work of Edgar Allan Poe. Who let that into the kiddie section of the library? Well, there isn’t any sex in it: that was probably the excuse; and children are so fond of decaying corpses, especially those with all their teeth pulled out, as in “Berenice”. So me and “The Masque of the Red Death” go way back.

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