Sunday, October 24News That Matters

The Quarantine Playlist

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Welcome. Virtual trivia. Online play reading groups. We’re negotiating a less-quarantined existence, but our pandemic pastimes remain predominantly home-based for the moment. We’re booking optimistic flights for summer and contemplating vaccine passports, but we’re still home making Yewande Komolafe’s tamarind-drizzled rice porridge, reading Jenny Diski’s essays, considering going gray.

A couple of weeks ago I asked if there was one song that you would forever associate with your time in quarantine, a tune whose opening bars will always remind you of these last 13 months. The submissions are fantastic, together forming a soundtrack that captures the emotional extremes, the isolation and yearning and nostalgia of a year at home.

For Derek Cohn on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it’s Talking Heads’ “(Nothing but) Flowers” that encapsulates the past year. For Julie Hanify in Pittsburgh and Laurie Tanner in Kihei, Hawaii, it’s Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” with the lyric “I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered/I don’t have a friend who feels at ease.” (There were several votes for Simon and Garfunkel, including “The Sound of Silence” and “The Only Living Boy in New York.”)

Al Jarreau’s “We Got By.” Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December.” Juan Donoso in Santiago, Chile, offered “So We Won’t Forget” by Khruangbin: “I put it on every time I felt hopeless about the never-ending pandemic and its restrictions. For me, this song is a beautiful journey through memories of pre-pandemic life, of that last summer with friends, traveling, free, with absolutely no clue of what was ahead of us. It makes me cry and laugh at the same time,” he wrote.

The playlist is here. It’s exhilarating to listen to these songs together, to think of all the pandemic soundtracks playing in all the homes around the globe, our situations disparate but alike in at least one regard. Let us know what you think, and if you need something else to listen to, the At Home cover-song playlist, from September, is good, too.

  • I inhaled the podcast “The Apology Line,” about an artist in New York in the 1980s who set up a phone number and invited people to call and leave messages confessing their darkest secrets.

  • In “Ultra-fast Fashion Is Eating the World,” in The Atlantic, Rachel Monroe describes that numbing pastime of idly perusing online storefronts, checking out the wares without buying anything: “The browsing suited my mood of low-key dissatisfaction, the itchy, procrastination-prone state that one of my friends calls ‘snacky.’ I had a closet full of clothes and nowhere to wear them, but I added items to my basket anyway — improbable outfits for imaginary parties in a world that no longer existed.” I’ve been snackier than usual lately.

  • Don’t miss Sigrid Nunez’s essay about friendship from T Magazine’s culture issue.

My colleagues on the Modern Love podcast want to know how you’re dividing housework during the pandemic. Send in a submission and they might feature you on a future episode. And you can write to us at about whatever’s on your mind. Include your name and location. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. As always, more ideas for leading a full and cultured life at home and near it appear below.

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