Stockpiling books for swine flu

The world has been panicking. As if the climate crisis, economic crisis and Spice Girls reunion tour weren’t keeping us sufficiently terrified, we now have to deal with swine flu. Experts warn that it could become a global ‘pandemic’, a term which I find bizarre because it reminds me of ‘pancake’ and ‘panforte’, making the prospect of a mass disease outbreak seem considerably less scary and considerably more delicious.Numerous Mexicans, and at least one American, have been killed by swine flu. And our own Kevin Rudd is advising us to stockpile two week’s worth of supplies as well as remembering to wash our hands – you know, like he got to do of Mick Keelty today.

All over the world, health authorities are getting tough. In Hong Kong, authorities locked hundreds of tourists in their hotel for seven days after a Mexican guest was discovered to have contracted the disease. Which sounds serious, except for one thing. As long as I wasn’t actually dying of swine flu, being forced to spend seven days relaxing in a hotel sounds pretty much a dream to me.

In fact, I’d love for our government to call on Australians to stay in their homes, like the Mexican authorities have just done, leaving only essential services in operation. It would be my idea of paradise, especially if “essential services” includes Pizza Hut.

Which reminds me – I don’t have enough food in my house for two meals, let alone two weeks. So before all hell breaks loose in our streets, with the dead rising from their graves and mindless zombies wandering around looking for fresh brains, I must remember to visit the supermarket.

So – we’re supposed to be stockpiling food and medicine in case things really start to go downhill. But in the event of a compulsory holiday, we also need to stockpile ways of entertaining ourselves. Over the past year or two, I’ve developed a massive pile of books I really should read, but haven’t quite gotten around to. Perhaps, if I’m forced to spend a week at home, I’ll finally be able to get through Infinite Jest? Well, maybe if I had a month. Or perhaps a year.

A major outbreak would be a wonderful opportunity to work my way through some of the recent releases piled up on my bedside table. I could read more than a fraction of A Fraction Of The Whole, and what better time to read the new novel by a former writing teacher of mine, Debra Adelaide, A Household Guide to Dying? Speaking of which, hasn’t that hit bookstores at the perfect time? Talk about viral marketing.

Okay, so I probably wouldn’t read such literary, high-minded books at all. I’d probably stick to the popular stuff  – you know, keep things light so I can keep my brain cells ready for when I need them for post-apocalyptical survival. I’d probably work my way through Exit Music, the last Ian Rankin, which I still haven’t gotten around to reading. And I haven’t yet re-read the last Harry Potter, and I’m hoping that when I get back to it, JK Rowling will somehow magically have changed the schmaltzy ending.

Now look, I’m not saying I want swine flu to cut a swathe through Australia the way it has through Mexico. I’m not pro-mass death, I’m just pro-mass holidays, that’s all. And I just think it’s a good idea to point out that if everything is shut down, it’d be a good idea to be prepared, and build up a supply of quality reading material.

On which note, welcome to the new Random House website, a perfect source of books to stockpile for the end of the world as we know it. Unfortunately I really can’t recommend my new novel, Disco Boy, but some of the other authors featured on here are pretty good.

In particular, browsing around the site, you’ll probably notice that there’s a new Dan Brown novel coming out soon. And while I haven’t read it yet, I’m pretty confident sure it’s going to reveal that swine flu is entirely the fault of the Freemasons.

NB – this post originally appeared on the Random House Australia blog

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