“It’s been a crazy year” is the tired cliche of the past several months. For some, stories of catastrophic personal loss give contour to the protracted freeze on life that was 2020. For others there is no shape, no peak or valley, only the rustle of static and the banality of confinement and isolation. For us at Bonfire Books, the last year has brought our team closer together, in purpose and location, and we are soon to announce the release of our second title, Our Debt to Antiquity by Tadeusz Stefan Zieliński. Not euphemistically close, the books have been proofed and the boxes are in the mail. We have two more historical fiction titles prepared for print after this release and a new fiction title in the manuscript stage.
The internet has emerged to be more real than virtual for many of us. Whilst we understand many other parts of the world still endure lock-downs, curfews and other domestic restrictions, things in Australia seem to have settled down. However the effects are still keenly felt. Virtual meetings that can now be arranged in-person have stayed online. We have adapted to our confines and are too comfortable in our strictures to break out of them. Pavlov’s bell is a smartphone notification.
Many of these things were pre-existing trends – remote work, remote school, smartphone addiction, virtual friendship, virtual personas, virtual romance, home-delivered takeaway. Taking a cue from his Iberian appellation, Señor Corona sunk his ships and had us fend for ourselves. The unwitting crew is at various stages of the grief process – the shock and anger grew as the novelty at the relief of not having to show up each day began to fade. Our book launch and inaugural annual party were cancelled and paper suppliers were shut down. Literature fairs, open mics, university open day stalls, all cancelled. Nothing is ever entirely online – there is always a person behind the screen – at least for us and for now. At Bonfire Books it’s fair to say we have met the upward turn and are in the acceptance and hope phase, and can see that good books are more important now than we had ever thought.
There is great temptation in outrage and anger. A great channelling of self-righteousness and fury. A chance to show that you matter, that you feel, that you too are a part of this, and you will be heard. This is not a call to cynicism or hopelessness. The lesson for us has been that we are more vulnerable than we had ever thought. At the flick of a pen, life can change. So we now act accordingly. Not by hiding, but acknowledging reality and working within domains to effect change that is within reach. By establishing more robust arrangements, habits and relationships from physical exercise to writing to socialising or any kind of self-cultivation.
Although we are nearly a quarter of the way into the year, we are four quarters into our new paradigm, and we wish all of our friends and supporters the best for this year.