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How My Favorite Books Helped Me Cope When I Was Sick, by M. L. Lanzillotta

This post is part of 805's “My Home Library” series that features writers and artists enjoying their home libraries during the pandemic and beyond.

Last Summer I developed a serious blood infection (which I wrote about for Filter). I ended up needing six weeks of IV antibiotics to recover. It was a terrifying experience. Because of the pandemic, I wasn't allowed to have any visitors. While I could and did occasionally Skype with various friends, I still felt incredibly lonely. Luckily, I was allowed to keep a few books in my room. I chose to bring the first four

books of Patricia Highsmith's Ripliad, as well as the first of the Cambridge Latin textbooks and my Oxford Latin-English dictionary.

You're probably wondering why I picked these books in particular. Well, I've been quite a fan of Highsmith ever since my best friend Sharon sent me a copy of The Price of Salt. As a queer woman and writer myself, I find it encouraging that Highsmith was able to find success as a writer in an era when men dominated the professional world. Also, her work is genuinely quite good. One can tell that she put a lot of careful thought into her characters and storylines. Highsmith is a master of suspense and mystery, arguably even better than Agatha Christie (though the latter's plotting is generally well thought-out, her prose often feels mechanical and lacks eloquence). I decided to bring the Ripley books because I find they make for a nice escape. After all, they primarily take place in beautiful European locales…lovely places full of fine wine and good food, the very opposite of the grim grey hotel I found myself in. Plus, the complicated situations of Highsmith's villainous protagonist served as a fine distraction. As always, I found myself quite caught up in Mr. Ripley's fiendish schemes!

As for the Latin book? Well, I've always been interested in languages. Over the past few years I've amassed quite a collection of bilingual dictionaries and language textbooks. I enjoy reading sentences from the latter aloud to practice pronouncing the words. Doing so gave me something concrete and sufficiently complicated to focus on, so I wouldn't spend all my time fretting about my health. Developing a potentially fatal blood infection was an utterly terrifying experience, especially for someone as young as me (I'm only 21). For the first few weeks of my hospitalization I feared that I wouldn't survive. Focusing on my studies kept me from panicking or breaking down.


M. L. Lanzillotta is a freelance writer from the Washington DC metro area. Her hobbies include painting, reading, studying languages, writing short stories, and collecting multilingual dictionaries.


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