Zaleski: Let in the light, have hope

It’s impossible to put the reality of the pandemic aside, but it’s useful to take a holiday break. I turn to books, music and movies. So, find respite -- a little light - with these recommendations.

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InForum columnist Jack Zaleski is the former editor of The Forum's editorial page.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We need “merry” and “happy.” ‘Tis the season of light and hope. The darkness this year seems impenetrable. Let in a little light. Dare to hope.

It’s a difficult time for the nation -- the most difficult since the Great Depression of the 1930s or World War II in the 1940s. Few of us know firsthand about sacrifices during those years. The stories my parents told were remote reflections that affected them, but had no impact on me growing up in the prosperous 1960s. As COVID-19 hobbles the nation, I understand what my parents lived through.

The pandemic has tested us, not only because of fear of a deadly infectious disease, but also because our lives have been upended, disrupted, shut down. The precautions and mandates required to beat back the virus are unprecedented. In the richest nation on Earth, reports of food lines, overwhelmed hospitals, shuttered businesses and 320,000 Americans killed by the virus have rattled our faith in support systems that are supposed to be the best in the world. Only now, when a delayed public-private partnership has shown extraordinary ability to quickly produce a vaccine, are we seeing what we can do when mobilized -- when the fumbles of government at the highest level are overcome by intense focus, cooperative effort and good science. The efficacy of vaccines is good news. Initial distributions of two vaccines have gone well. Now is the time to let in the light, to have hope.


  • Zaleski: A good book and Scrabble for COVID days

It’s impossible to put the reality of the pandemic aside, but it’s useful to take a holiday break. I turn to books, music and movies. So, find respite -- a little light - with these recommendations.
“All the Devils are Here” (Macmillan 2020) is Louise Penny’s 16th book in her popular Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries. This time Gamache is embroiled in a complex murder and business intrigue case in Paris, where he’s gone to visit family. Instead of the mythical Quebec village of Three Pines where most of the books are set, Gamache moves through Paris -- described elegantly by Penny -- in a risky quest to solve a murder and an attempted murder. A critic or two has panned the plot as too convoluted. I disagree. The turns, twists and startling conclusion should make fans of Penny and Inspector Gamashe smile. I’ve found that every book in the Gamache series is good reading.


Ludvig van Beethoven was born 250 years ago. His music, brilliant when composed and brilliant still, is being played a lot this year on classical radio and on streaming services. Find a source that can give you his symphonies and piano concertos. Then sit back and listen to the genius of it. The more I listen, the more I hear the subtleties, the intricacies; the more I see the evolution from his early works to the magnificence of the 9th Symphony. If you need to relax, go with the 6th Symphony and its magical pastoral melodies -- wonderful de-stressors.

“The Verdict” is a 1982 legal drama starring Paul Newman and directed by Sidney Lumet. It’s Newman at the top of his game, with a supporting cast of the craft’s best, including James Mason, Charlotte Rampling and Jack Warden. For his role as a broken, alcoholic lawyer who takes on a high-profile case against a Roman Catholic hospital, Newman was nominated for an Oscar. Rampling’s performance confirms she is one of the most underrated actors in the business. Mason, as always, is exceptional as the brahmin lawyer for the church. Lumet’s directing and David Mamet’s screenplay are flawless. The Boston scenes in pubs, courtrooms and on the streets complement the sometimes grim story. Good film.

Take that break. It’s getting better.

Zaleski retired in 2017 after 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. Contact him at or 701-241-5521 or 701-566-3576

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