I’m sitting here trying to write up my little “This Week in Books” list, and it’s a real problem, because the literary corona-articles I saved last week already seem… slight. As in, too small for the occasion; preposterously hedged with absurd little silver linings. Re-reading one article I’d saved for my list, I ended up having to ask myself, is it actually ok to conclude that the typhus scene in Jane Eyre demonstrates how pandemics can be beneficial unstructured time for children!? But this isn’t me being critical, ok, this is me saying: that Jane Eyre article is already 10 days old, and what’s happening now is, the exponential growth of the disaster has made all these corona-articles floating in its wake appear smaller and smaller at a similarly accelerated rate. Last week seems so tiny; last month is minuscule. I dare you to try reading anything from February about the coronavirus; it feels sort of like going insane!
The real problem with the literary corona genre, to be honest, is that as the days go by, and more “essential” workers sicken and die, I feel my interest in anything about corona not written by or about essential workers kind of fading. The travails of lockdown are real, of course, but the thing to keep in mind about lockdown is that it is safety. There’s only so much we can complain about this before we start to reveal something… unpleasant… about ourselves; before we begin to align ourselves with what’s being done to the “essential” working class in this country. The mass sacrifice. It’s like the government is sending soldiers into combat with no guns, or something; like the Battle of Stalingrad, but for no particular reason!? I saw a tweet by a garbage collector who said that a passerby yelled at him for wearing a mask because he doesn’t deserve it as much as a healthcare worker. I saw a tweet quoting a month-old Facebook post by a bus driver worrying that his job will endanger him, with an addendum that he has already died of the virus. I see photo after photo of “essential” workers with no masks or PPE of any kind and think to myself that this cannot possibly be okay. Two weeks ago, the FedEx guy was parked outside our apartment — and we were watching, because any time a truck or something pulls up in the street that’s entertainment for us now — when suddenly he screamed, and I mean really goddamn screamed, to no one and to every one of us who was peeking at him out our windows: “What are we even doing out here!!??” The silence that followed was profound.
Doctors and nurses need PPE desperately, but also, so does everyone who’s still at work! So demand not only that your governments provide PPE for your healthcare workers, but for your garbage collectors, too. Please!
That all being said, I’ve still got a few literary corona reads here for you. I’m not trying to, I don’t know, make a grand statement. Just a small statement. I’m voicing a concern — a tiny but exponentially growing concern — that in a couple weeks this will all seem insane. Read more…