Albert Camus, photographed in the 1950s, clearly not following coronavirus prevention procedures.
Albert Camus, not following coronavirus prevention procedures. Kurt Hutton / Getty Images

Self-quarantined? Bored out of your mind? Looking to connect with others without leaving the house? The Stranger is officially starting a coronavirus book club called the Quarantine Club and our first selection is The Plague by Albert Camus, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature ten years after it was published. We're going to read The Plague together over the next month, starting now, and we'll "meet" here periodically on Slog to discuss it.*

If I've learned one thing from hosting the silent-reading party for the last 11 years, it's that people enjoy the social pressure to read. People need the social pressure to read. We all know we should be reading great books, classic books, the undefeated masterpieces of literature, the works of genius, the spoils of the intelligentsia, and yet... it's so much easier to read Twitter or Facebook or fire up Netflix and let digital media do the thinking for us. The internet is leading us to our doom, people. We need to be reading great books. COVID-19 may be wiping out our fellow human beings, but if we spend our self-quarantine time reading, we might be lucky enough to survive this thing as smarter, more well-rounded people.

Your first assignment, should you choose to accept it...

1. Get yourself a copy of The Plague. Go to the bookstore, go to the library, go to that one website and buy it for your Kindle, whatever. I will be reading (and quoting from, in future posts) the Vintage edition translated from the French by Stuart Gilbert. But if you want to read a different translation, or if you want to read it in the original French, knock yourself out.

2. Read the entirety of Part One (the first 63 pages in my copy) by this coming Monday, March 16. You have the weekend to help you make the deadline. Weekend project! Social distancing! Fun!

3. Snap a photo of the view from your reading chair, with your copy of the book somewhere in the frame of the photo, and send it to me by March 16. If you don't want to share the view from your reading chair, you can send a photo of your reading chair. For extra credit, include in your email what city you're in, what neighborhood you're in, what cruise ship you're on, the conditions of your quarantine, and/or whether you've read The Plague before or this is your first time, and I may include your photo in a March 17 Slog post.

4. If you want someone to talk to on the phone about The Plague, or someone you can text about The Plague, as you read, find a friend or family member right now and get them to join the Quarantine Club with you!

I will publish your photos of where you are reading The Plague on Tuesday, March 17, along with discussion questions related to Part One. We will "talk" about those discussion questions in the comments on that post.

Below is the schedule we're going to try to follow:

• We will read Part One over this week and weekend; plan to have that completed by March 16.

• We will read Part Two over the following week; plan to have that completed by March 23.

• We will read Part Three over the following week; plan to have that completed by March 31.

• We will read Part Four over the following week; plan to have that completed by April 7.

• We will read Part Five over the following week; plan to have that completed by April 14 April 17.

And then we're done! Think of the sense of accomplishment. If this is your first time reading The Plague, you'll have it read before tax day, and you can spend your summer at the beach regaling everyone about your thoughts on Camus... if we're even allowed to go to the beach by summertime this year. If this is not your first time reading The Plague, you will likely find all kinds of things in it you'd forgotten.

* Will there be any in-person discussion, for people in Seattle, after all this? Maybe! But not if we all go into lockdown like they're doing in Italy right now. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to make this book club work virtually, so we can all be connected to each other, sharing stories, sharing thoughts, processing the book together, all over the world... without meeting in person. If you have any creative ideas you'd like to share with me about how to do that, I'm all ears.

UPDATE 1: Are you doing your reading, everyone?

UPDATE 2: Discussion of Part One of The Plague.

UPDATE 3: Discussion of Part Two of The Plague.

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UPDATE 4: Discussion of Part Three of The Plague.

UPDATE 5: Discussion of Part Four of The Plague.



* * *

The Quarantine Club "meets" in the comments section of a weekly Slog post that goes up Tuesday late afternoon. A few thoughts on the opening pages are here. Part One discussion group is here: 🐀. Part Two discussion group is here: 🐀🐀. Part Three discussion group is here: 🐀🐀🐀. Part Four discussion group is here: 🐀🐀🐀🐀.

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