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A writer’s coronavirus diary

Imagine if you could date coronavirus itself. It seems exotic. Enigmatic. Worldly and cosmopolitan

April 2, 2020

1:36 PM

2 April 2020

1:36 PM

March 26, 2020

‘New York is always hopeful,’ wrote Dorothy Parker, ‘Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.’ That is the New York I know and the New York I love. Now the city is ravaged by coronavirus, but that hope lives on. A little of it lives in me as well — even if I have left for my dad’s place in the Hamptons.

March 27, 2020

‘What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well,’ wrote Camus in La Peste, ‘It helps men to rise above themselves.’ Why men, I wondered? Perhaps because women do not need to rise above themselves. They are transcendent already.

March 28, 2020

Am I suffering from coronavirus or aloneavirus? To be sure, as a writer I am used to being alone. Writers are painfully accustomed to isolation. Yes, we writers know the feeling of being disconnected from the world, with only a cup of coffee, a laptop and our precious words to keep us company. No one else can appreciate the sacrifice that comes with devoting yourself to the literary craft. The confinement. The desolation. The existential exile from the world. Still, I miss the occasional cocktail parties, book launches, interviews, festivals, conferences and brunches I used to enjoy.

Fitzgerald wrote, ‘The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly.’ How true it is. Some people have lost their health. Some people have lost their lives. Some people have lost their jobs. I have lost a writer’s retreat to Milan. And we cannot even mourn together.

March 29, 2020

What will coronavirus do to dating? What does ‘casual sex’ even mean anymore? Of course, it is true that one should not risk spreading coronavirus through one’s community just for the sake of a fling, but does that not feel somewhat judgmental? The virus, among other things, is a slut-shamer.

Imagine if you could date coronavirus itself. It seems exotic. Enigmatic. Worldly and cosmopolitan. But it leaves you alone, separated from your family and friends, in terrible pain. It reminds me of my ex.

March 30, 2020

How is Hillary doing at this time? That might sound like a strange thing to be thinking about but few days pass by without me thinking of the winner of the 2016 popular vote. She is in her seventies now. Is she OK? Is she safe? I cannot bear to think about something happening to her. The United States would have failed her again.

Imagine if Hillary were president now. Everything would be fine. She would have flown to China and told President Xi, firmly but fairly, to get the situation under control. It would have been like Minerva McGonagall — who, if we are honest with ourselves, should have been the headmistress of Hogwarts — appearing on Earth to set everything to rights. 

March 31, 2020

I have been thinking about bodies. How bodies work. How we look at bodies. How we talk about bodies. How we police bodies. The mechanics of coughing. How long it has been since someone touched my body. God I want someone to touch my body.

‘My relationship with my body has changed,’ Federico Fellini once said, ‘I used to consider it as a servant who should obey, function, give pleasure. In sickness, you realize that you are not the boss. It is the other way around.’ What an appalling thought! I am not going to let my body order me around like some kind of fascist. I have taken up smoking as a form of rebellion.

April 1, 2020

My coronavirus novel is progressing beautifully. In it, Jake and Tina wake up from a one-night-stand to find that they are going to have to be quarantined together. In her Manhattan apartment they have to go through all the motions of bourgeois domesticity against the backdrop of the pandemic, in a kind of satire of modern monogamous life. It will be called La Pesto.

April 2, 2020

What will the world look like after coronavirus? The virus is not going to disappear, of course, but there will be more advanced treatment methods, and more tests, and a vaccine. Shops will open again, and restaurants, and wine bars, and life will begin to return to normal. But the damage will remain, not just in terms of health and the economy but psychologically. The fear, and the grief, and the tedium will leave their scars. And we will need people to describe them…

I worry that we will forget the real heroes of this time. There are the doctors, of course, and the nurses, and the truckers, and the shelf-stackers. All of them deserve credit. But who will remember the people who sweated and struggled over their keyboards, day in, day out? Who will remember the people who have labored in the service of posterity? Who will remember the writers? The feeling of being under-appreciated is painful. Perhaps I could write a personal essay about it. 

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