Lily Meyer

For me, and I imagine not me alone, this fall has been a season of creeping dread. The presidential election had something to do with it, as did the arrival of cold weather and the departure of Daylight Savings Time, and, now, the terrifying national spike in coronavirus cases, which seems worse every time I check the news. No wonder, then, that I have found myself attracted to fiction suffused with melancholy, dread, and low-level doom. Reading darkness-filled novels has proved a useful way for me to manage the darkness outside.

Artist and writer Lauren Redniss creates books like no one else's.

The writer Nicole Krauss has, in the last two decades, acquired an enormous, devoted, and deserved readership. Her novels, which tend to juxtapose the broad philosophic questions of how to be human with the narrower — though still large and perplexing — issues of how to be a contemporary Jew, work in the magic-adjacent tradition of Bruno Schulz and Franz Kafka, with a little Rothian earthiness mixed in.

In a recent issue of n+1, contributor Nausicaa Renner formally renounced reading essays about coronavirus. Until quarantine ends, she wrote, "I vow to only read fiction. For me, the well of individual experience has run dry." For me, though, reading fiction is no guarantee of release from my anxieties about health and country. Nor do I always want that release. But when I do, I turn to fiction that lives at least a little bit outside the realm of the possible.

In a moment not too long ago, I realized that the coronavirus pandemic was turning me into a bad girlfriend. I was taking out far too much stress on my boyfriend, forgetting that he, too, was frayed by months of social-distancing and fear.