Back in March, during the earliest days of the shutdown, I could not bring myself to read. Everything seemed inchoate, irrelevant or out of date. What I wanted was a guide for living. What I wanted were tips on how to make it through. What I wanted were assurances, a sense that everything was going to be OK. This, however, is not the purpose of narrative, which insists on a more rigorous perspective. We don’t read or write to be reassured — at least I don’t. We read and write to reckon with all the things we cannot know.
“There is a kind of uniform monotony in the fate of man,” Natalia Ginzburg observes in her essay “Winter in the Abruzzi.” She is referring not to our time but to hers. In 1941, Ginzburg’s husband was sent into internal exile in Italy because he was an anti-fascist; she and their children accompanied him. I had never encountered “Winter in Abruzzi” until I read about it in “The New Calm,” a recent New Yorker piece by Maggie Nelson about her experience of the pandemic. What Ginzburg is evoking is the futility of empty hope, which seems especially appropriate now.
I experienced the Nelson and Ginzburg pieces during a binge some weeks ago that broke the logjam in my reading. All of a sudden, I was ready — not to be distracted but to engage. Unsurprisingly, I turned first to essays, that interrogatory genre in which we confront a consciousness in conversation with itself.
I don’t mean to be glib when I suggest this represents its own form of contagion: The writer’s voice and situation infiltrating ours.
Source : https://www.latimes.com/california/liveblog/coronavirus-live-updates-thursday-may-14341