The Stack self-isolation reading list
I’m writing this from an empty office. Everyone else at Stack is currently working from home and central London is weirdly quiet, as people self-isolate to #flattenthecurve. All the indicators point to this being the start of a long and arduous process, so I’ve spent a few hours digging through our shelves looking for the independent magazines that could make things a little more bearable over the coming weeks. We’ve got loads of titles to choose from in the Stack shop and lots of them will keep you entertained in your isolation, but for this post I’ve pulled out a selection of stories that speak to the specific demands of these extraordinary days…
Video conferencing with The Skirt Chronicles
Video Call is a lovely, intimate conversation between Japanese-French artist Setsuko Klossowska de Rola and Japanese designer Kenzo Takada. Interviewer Jae Lee sets the scene, describing the room and the bustle of setting up the call, and then disappears entirely, leaving the reader sitting in on a conversation that sweeps across subjects including the industrialisation and westernisation of Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the beauty of the kimono: “Wearing a kimono is like painting. The way you build up the composition is very similar.”
The whole magazine feels effortlessly relaxed, like a series of lovely curiosities the reader stumbles across by chance, rather than something that has been planned and produced as an editorial product. See, for example, Celine Corbineau’s coffee portraits: “This is not latte art. Celine Corbineau draws with the end of her spoon in the coffee she drinks.” Perfect Parisian escapism to distract you from the dull reality of staying at home all day.
Keep fit with The Gentlewoman
Exercising out in the open, away from other sweaty bodies, The Gentlewoman went for an early morning keep-fit class with Roisin Murphy. Following the singer’s regular route through Gladstone Park in north-west London, and her own self-made form of ‘dancercise’, it’s the sort of routine that will keep you fit even if your gym has to close in the coming weeks. As long as you don’t mind looking a bit odd: “The Roisin Murphy dancercise experience is best characterised as a freestyle synthesis of moves drawn from the singer’s heady youth spent on the dance floor – hip-hop slides, ballet turns, vogueing arms, Northern soul shuffles – with circuit-training squats, skips and jumps and some yoga that she’s picked up over the years.”
For more conventional athletic inspiration, the interview with South African runner Caster Semenya is impressive not just for her sporting achievements and the fortitude she has shown in her long-running battle with the IAAF, but also for her determination to lead from the front: “‘I break barriers and boundaries,’ she says. ‘I believe I’m a face of change. I’m an example. It doesn’t matter in which category it is. It can be sports, it can be life, it can be education. Anything.’”
Stay clean with Facility
Panic-buying toilet paper and spending extra time washing our hands, it feels like everyone is getting a little obsessed with the bathroom at the moment. Of course there’s an independent magazine that was already way ahead of that particular curve, and Facility is a clever, provocative title from New York that explores the many different roles bathrooms play in our lives. For example Chloe Bass’s The Book of Everyday Instruction investigates the ways people arrange themselves in space and includes an installation in a public toilet, with text printed on toilet paper, as well as on the walls, stall doors and mirrors.
Meanwhile Scrubbing Bubbles by Jane Marchant is an inventive piece of writing that cascades down 18 pages, recounting key bathroom-based moments from her family’s history and washing away at the layers of racism that have built up over generations of mixed race heritage. It’s quiet and poignant and the unusual layout will have you snaking your way down the pages.
You can buy Facility as part of our Toilet Reading collection, alongside The South London Review of Hand Dryers and Goat, saving 25% off the cost of all three bathroom-based titles and guaranteeing that you’ll have something to think about next time you’re doing an extra good job of washing your hands.
Social distancing with Perdiz
Perdiz is “a magazine about happiness”, and it’s full of strange people pursuing their own vision of whatever it is that makes them happy, often far away from their fellow humans. In the latest issue that includes Thomas Thwaites, the Londoner who built a prosthetic goat suit and spent three days in the Alps trying to bond with a herd. In his interview he concedes it was a difficult experience, in which he was cold, wet and hungry, and “worried about smashing my teeth while walking down the mountain.” But, he says, it was valuable nonetheless: “I sometimes think about the goat that I was. When the human world gets really stressful again, it’s useful to think back to that time and understand that there are different perspectives in the world.”
Eighteen-year-old Seth Costwell has found a less extreme way of being away from people – the ventriloquist lives at home in Wichita, Kansas with his collection of 26 dolls, many of them more than four times older than him. Home alone in a crowded room full of talkative characters who can’t spread the virus, it looks like Seth might have found the secret to successful self-isolation.