The Coronavirus Diaries, Continued

By Mark Alpert

It’s so quiet in Manhattan now, I can hear the birds singing.

Before the new coronavirus spread across the country, I heard birdsong only in the early morning, at five or six o’clock, when the sky was just starting to brighten. But now I hear it all day long. I had no idea there were so many birds in the city.

This week on Trevor Noah’s Daily Social Distancing Show, I heard him joke about how the world’s animals are going to look back on this period as a Golden Age for non-human creatures. “Remember the spring of 2020? When all the people hid indoors? Damn, that was a great time.”

It’s all a matter of perspective. The situation in my own perch — a seventh-floor apartment on the Upper West Side — isn’t so bad. My wife and I can work from home. Our kids are home from college and taking their classes online.

But this pandemic has highlighted, in a very ghastly way, the fundamental inequities of American society. A disproportionate number of the disadvantaged are employed in service industries that put them at a much higher risk of infection. That includes bus drivers, nursing-home aides, corrections officers, supermarket employees, and all the people who toil in Amazon’s warehouses. As a result, the poorest areas of New York City have been devastated the most by Covid-19. Particularly hard-hit are several neighborhoods in Queens where many new immigrants live in close quarters. (You can go to this site to see the death tolls.)

How should novelists respond to this crisis? Do we want to spend our entire writing careers seeking only to entertain and titillate our readers? Or should we make an attempt, at least once or twice in our lives, to do what fiction does best: make our readers see and feel the horrible unfairness by putting them in our suffering characters’ shoes?

Let me propose as a paragon one of the most successful novelists of all time, Charles Dickens. In all his books, Dickens was a superb entertainer. He was a master of suspense and sentiment. His nineteenth-century American readers were so enthralled by his plots that when a ship came to New York bearing copies of the final installment of The Old Curiosity Shop, people gathered at the docks to yell a crucial question at the arriving ship’s crew (who’d presumably read the book’s last chapter while they were at sea): “Is Little Nell dead?”

But Dickens was also a social-justice warrior. When he was twelve years old, his family spiraled downward into dire poverty; his father was forced into a debtor’s prison in 1824, and Charles had to leave school and go to work at a rat-infested warehouse where he spent ten hours a day pasting labels on pots of boot blacking. This experience colored nearly all of Dickens’s novels. It gave him the inspiration for a huge cast of fictional characters, from the street urchins in Oliver Twist to the sad debtors in Little Dorrit. And along with the plot twists and shocking revelations, Dickens always made his political views clear in his novels. With an undying passion, he excoriated child labor and debtor’s prisons and a host of other evils that oppressed England’s poor. And thanks in part to his efforts, English reformers succeeded in outlawing some of the worst capitalist practices.

I would also argue that Dickens’s political passions made his novels more memorable than books that strive only to entertain. I read Bleak House thirty years ago, and over the decades I pretty much forgot the novel’s Byzantine plot. But I’ll never forget the character named Jo, a young homeless boy who works as a London street sweeper and dies of pneumonia after enduring hundreds of pages of abuse. Dickens movingly describes Jo’s torturous death, and then the great author steps away from the narrative and addresses the reader directly:

Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us, every day.

That last sentence certainly strikes a new chord during the present crisis. The poor are dying around us, every day, in much greater numbers than the rich, in ambulances and emergency rooms and intensive-care units all across this divided city.

But I want to get back to the songbirds. In addition to the hundreds of unseen birds whistling outside, there’s now a budgie cheeping in a cage in my daughter’s bedroom (see photo above). This bird was brought to our apartment by my daughter’s girlfriend, who’s living with us for the duration of the pandemic. The budgie’s name is Peeps, and at odd hours he lives up to his moniker by peeping nonstop. My wife calls it a Peep-a-thon.

We never had a pet before, and this one is only temporary. Nevertheless, I’ve grown fond of Peeps. His cheeping seems hopeful. It makes me think of the story in Genesis (Chapter 8, Verses 6 through 12) about Noah and his birds. Here’s the King James version:

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:

And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;

But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.

10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;

11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

12 And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.

Sitting in my apartment, waiting out the pandemic, I feel like Noah in his ark. The whole world is flooded with pain and sorrow. I can’t see the future yet, and it feels like the tide of death will keep rising forever. But the birdsong says something different: Be patient. Just wait. Sooner or later, the dove will return with a sign of redemption.

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About Mark Alpert

Contributing editor at Scientific American and author of science thrillers: Final Theory (2008), The Omega Theory (2011), Extinction (2013), The Furies (2014), The Six (2015), The Orion Plan (2016), The Siege (2016), and The Silence (2017). His latest thriller, The Coming Storm (St. Martin's Press, 2019), is a cautionary tale about climate change, genetic engineering, and Donald Trump. His website: www.markalpert.com

11 thoughts on “The Coronavirus Diaries, Continued

  1. Since you insist on bringing up US politics and insist on inviting your readership to pass comment, I’m more than happy to oblige.

    “But this pandemic has highlighted, in a very ghastly way, the fundamental inequities of American society. A disproportionate number of the disadvantaged are employed in service industries that put them at a much higher risk of infection. That includes bus drivers, nursing-home aides, corrections officers, supermarket employees, and all the people who toil in Amazon’s warehouses. As a result, the poorest areas of New York City have been devastated the most by Covid-19. Particularly hard-hit are several neighborhoods in Queens where many new immigrants live in close quarters. (You can go to this site to see the death tolls.)”

    Claims require evidence. Evidence, not of correlation, mind you, but of causation. The intellectually serious must establish a causal link between economic disadvantage and propensity to catch and spread Covid-19 in such a way that alternative explanations are ruled out, including multiple-variable explanations, no matter how self-evident you may think your proposed explanation is. This is how the intellectually serious proceed. The burden is on them, the onus is on them to prove their claims. This requirement applies across the board, to me, to you, to anyone else making any claim and wishing to be taken seriously.

    Equality under the law? Absolutely Political equality? Absolutely. Economic equality? No. That sort of equality is unfair. Equality is by definition unfair. The only way for people with different life choices, different abilities, different IQs, different body fat percentages, different tastes, different interests, different degrees of commitment, different work ethics, different parenting, different schooling, different epigenetics, different religious backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds, the only way for all this vast multidimensional ocean of diversity, the only way for this magma of life to end up confined in the back alley of platonic equality would be for the best, the most hardworking, the most business savvy, most committed, most focused, most talented, most ethical to be crippled and incapacitated. Otherwise economic inequality will always, always, arise. It will always, always manifest itself. The empirical evidence for that is not short of monumental.

    We ran the experiment during the 20th century. The result of trying to top down eliminate economic inequality to the degree some are eagerly suggesting were some of the most tyrannical and less free societies ever. 80 million corpses, give or take.

    The only way for me and a NBA player to be equal on the court would be for me to break his legs. Then I might stand a chance.

    The claim that a “A disproportionate number of the disadvantaged are employed in service industries that put them at a much higher risk of infection” implicitly presumes that there is a “correct” number. This claim must also be established and its proponents must also explain how and under which economic system would that mythical number be reached. Because we do know how the present number has been reached: through voluntary transactions between two parties, both of which willingly keep their part of the bargain, a bargain which they’re free to break from at any point in time. So please, do tell, what would be the number you would consider “appropriate”, how did you reach that figure and what people past that arbitrary quota should do when they cannot find a job anywhere else.

    “How should novelists respond to this crisis? Do we want to spend our entire writing careers seeking only to entertain and titillate our readers? Or should we make an attempt, at least once or twice in our lives, to do what fiction does best: make our readers see and feel the horrible unfairness by putting them in our suffering characters’ shoes?

    The role of art is what is intrinsic to art. What is intrinsic to art is not what is intrinsic to politics. The ontology of politics is different from the ontology of art. Some authors are deeply confused and the quality of their work seems to reflect their confusion. What you describe as fair would be the very definition of unfairness. The very definition.

    In fact, I would argue it is the exact opposite of what you claim. Artistic merit often comes about, not because of, but despite of political activism. How do we know this? Again, the 20th century was a vast laboratory. From the far left all the way to the far right, and everything in between, great works of every political persuasion were produced. Great works, mediocre works, inferior works and terrible works of art were produced by artists championing every single political, philosophical and religious cause imaginable. This means artistic merit has nothing to do with political ideology. Nothing.

    Les Miserables is a great novel because of literary merit. Had Victor Hugo conveyed the exact same ideology by means of inferior prose, the novel would have been worthless artistically. No matter how noble you deem the intentions, it’s the execution that matters. This is true for left-wing novels, right wing novels, religious novels, atheistic novels.

    Additionally, people who claim writers ought to do this or that are framing the question in moral terms. Therefore, they must first establish that objective morality exists. If objective morality does not exist, then it’s all a matter of subjective opinion, you have yours, others have theirs and in no way would you ever be able to morally persuade and compel a writer to do what you claim they have an obligation to do. Again, evidence. Where is the evidence? Show me the evidence.

    Finally, I could go into great detail about how your religious reference is misplaced and inadequate. But out of courtesy for the believers among us, and since this is Easter after all, I will stop here.

    I do look forward to reading a post from you on writing crafty, if and when that happens.

    Enjoy the rest of your Saturday.

    • Dear NR,

      You’re right that economic equality cannot be achieved and would not be a requirement of economic justice if it could be achieved.

      It does not follow that any and all inequality that a system creates are equally just and equally respect human dignity, human worth in all people.

      The world is a better place for the worker-safety and child-labor laws that Dickens advocated for.

      The idea that an economic distribution is just because it is a result of “voluntary exchanges between two parties” is not an accurate representation of what actually happens. Certainly this is part of what happens. LeBron James is a multi-millionaire because of voluntary exchanges–to update your man Nozick’s Wilt Chamberlain example. But even LeBron’s wealth is a result of market power and of laws and practices that limit competition and hence distort the voluntariness of exchanges. Consider only the exploitation of college athletes sanctioned by NCAA and our laws. In a truly free economy there would be multiple opportunities for aspiring professional athletes to learn their skills and to benefit, along the way, from their marketability.

      But more relevant to the real world are structures and histories that warp and limit economic opportunity and hence render talk about “voluntary exchanges” largely empty.

      If one’s parents are rich enough to live in a school district such as Chagrin Falls, Ohio, or Forest Hills, Michigan, one has a whole range of “voluntary exchanges” available that the millions of young people growing up in dysfunctional, under-financed school districts do not have.

      If one is born with or acquires certain diseases or other medical challenges, the system of health care in the US–to some extent, even now, but certainly pre-ACA–radically limits one’s opportunity to make a “voluntary exchange” for health care.

      One could go on and on. But the point should be clear.

      You’re right that an economically just society would not be economically equal. But an economically just society will provide everyone with a range of opportunities that enable them to live with dignity and a much higher level of economic security than is now available to a huge fraction of our fellow citizens.

      As in Les Miserables and in Dickens, crime fiction can present us with stories that capture the impact of our systems on people struggling to make their lives work, giving us “imaginary gardens with real toads.”

      • Dear Eric Beversluis,

        Thanks for your input.
        I will try to address your points the best I can.

        “Dear NR,
        You’re right that economic equality cannot be achieved and would not be a requirement of economic justice if it could be achieved.”

        There is economic injustice in the world and, regrettably, not all inequality is a product of markets functioning freely.

        Economic injustice happens when free enterprise is hampered. Unjust inequality comes about though coercion, or notably through using state power to gain an unfair unwarranted advantage over the completion.

        “It does not follow that any and all inequality that a system creates are equally just and equally respect human dignity, human worth in all people.”

        You’re conflating moral considerations – these would take too much time to deconstruct here – with economic considerations. On the latter, I would sum it up like this:

        Each individual has so-called negative universal rights. His life, his liberties and his property cannot be taken away. This *necessarily* means that anything else must be obtained on the basis of voluntary exchanges with others, where no coercion is exercised by or on any of the parties. This means you must persuade people, usually though money, to part from their property or give you their labour.

        “The world is a better place for the worker-safety and child-labor laws that Dickens advocated for.”

        I wouldn’t say he advocated, but rather that he depicted. Acknowledgement is not endorsement.

        As for child-labour, I would encourage you to look into the libertarian/objectivist perspective with an open mind. Yaron Brook, from the Ayn Rand Institute – the novelist of Atlas Shrugged was also a philosopher – specifically addresses this issue in his talks.

        “The idea that an economic distribution is just because it is a result of “voluntary exchanges between two parties” is not an accurate representation of what actually happens.”

        It’s not “just”, as I have reiterated above. Most first-world countries have mixed highly regulated economies. Even the most capitalist economies are still extremely regulated. Social welfare exists throughout the West, where most nations have robust social safety nets, whether you agree or disagree with the existence and characteristics of these redistribution systems. I would argue they do run against the goal of universal uncoerced relationships between human beings.

        “Certainly this is part of what happens. LeBron James is a multi-millionaire because of voluntary exchanges–to update your man Nozick’s Wilt Chamberlain example. But even LeBron’s wealth is a result of market power and of laws and practices that limit competition and hence distort the voluntariness of exchanges. ”

        I’m not disagreeing with that. The answer, though, is not more regulation, but more freedom. And freedom will always, always, always lead to inequality. Here we get to the bottom of the issue. The problem is not inequality, but poverty.

        The 20th century proved conclusively that the system that’s most efficacious at irradiating poverty is also the system that generates the most inequality. What would be the problem of inequality if we were all millionaires, but the gap between us were even greater than what it is today? Absolutely none. Ideally speaking, It’d be better to have a system with fair inequality and zero poverty than a system with complete equality and wide-spread poverty.

        “Consider only the exploitation of college athletes sanctioned by NCAA and our laws. In a truly free economy there would be multiple opportunities for aspiring professional athletes to learn their skills and to benefit, along the way, from their marketability.”

        You won’t see me writing a single line against the existence free markets.

        “But more relevant to the real world are structures and histories that warp and limit economic opportunity and hence render talk about “voluntary exchanges” largely empty.”

        What’s truly “empty” is the flamboyant talk about structural inequality or systemic inequality in today’s western world.

        Please detail those ominous “systems”. Detail the vague nebulous “structures” that “oppress”. Provide empirical evidence they exist and behave the way and to the effect you claim they do. Then and only then will we be able to continue the rational discussion.

        “If one’s parents are rich enough to live in a school district such as Chagrin Falls, Ohio, or Forest Hills, Michigan, one has a whole range of “voluntary exchanges” available that the millions of young people growing up in dysfunctional, under-financed school districts do not have.”

        Exactly,
        The Tabula Rasa notion is absurd. What one can ever hope to achieve is maximize the opportunities for each individual to live life on their own terms. He is not owed anything. Life doesn’t owe him anything. Nobody owes him anything. If his parents want to put him though college, it’s their money, their child. Not ours. If the parents want to lit up a bonfire with the banknotes, they can. It’s theirs, not yours.

        It’s my money. I earn it. I can give it to whomever I want. What’s it to you. it certainly isn’t your money for you to decide, is it? If you get to decide how I spend my money, whom I give it to, do I get to decide how you spend yours?

        So how do we maximize each individual’s potential? Freedom. We award him the maximum of freedom. As long as they don’t infringe on the liberties of others, he can do whatever he wants to.

        “If one is born with or acquires certain diseases or other medical challenges, the system of health care in the US–to some extent, even now, but certainly pre-ACA–radically limits one’s opportunity to make a “voluntary exchange” for health care.”

        I’m sorry. but you do seem to be misunderstanding the concept of non-coercion. You are not entitled to the property of others and the wealth of others and the work of others. That means you have to persuade them. You have to trade with them, so that both agree upon the transaction and both see it as advantageous.

        That’s how you do it.
        It usually involves money.

        Will the world ever be perfect? Never. Is life ideal? Absolutely not. How to better it, nonetheless? More individual freedom for everyone.

        All of the alternatives are worse. They are deeply immoral and deeply anti-human progress.

        “One could go on and on. But the point should be clear.”

        One could, but the principle still stands. No one is owed anything, except for so-called negative rights. You are not entitled to the property of others, the work of others and the money of others.

        “You’re right that an economically just society would not be economically equal. But an economically just society will provide everyone with a range of opportunities that enable them to live with dignity and a much higher level of economic security than is now available to a huge fraction of our fellow citizens.”

        I disagree with all of your assertions. I especially take issue with the emotionally charged language such as “dignity”. I am sure we would not be able to agree on what constitutes and what violates human dignity.

        “As in Les Miserables and in Dickens, crime fiction can present us with stories that capture the impact of our systems on people struggling to make their lives work, giving us “imaginary gardens with real toads.”

        Of course it can. It does. And so do crime novels set in fictional worlds or crime novels centred around the banality of mundane existence. None is necessarily better than the other. The pudding is what matters and the pudding is made of literature not of politics, as the 20th century demonstrated beyond plausible refutation.

        Thanks for this exchange, It’s been most interesting and , hopefully, we will be able resume it some time in the future in a more appropriate venue.

        I wish you a pleasant weekend with your loved ones.

        Take care.

        • Dear NR,

          Lest we drive other KZB readers to fury, let me just summarize where we disagree. I see these assumptions that require Socratic examination:

          Economic considerations can be separated from moral considerations. Every economic structure, law, and policy we put in place involves making moral decisions, including the very concept of property rights.

          “It’s my money. I earn it.” Only because a society provides you with a system that defines and creates property rights to start with. And all kinds of public goods (highways, law and order, etc.) that help you “earn” that money.

          “No one is owed anything, except for so-called negative rights.” This is a fundamental moral disagreement. I believe that individuals are “owed” certain things simply by being members of a society.

          • Dear Eric Beversluis,

            Thanks for your post.
            In the times we live in, how refreshing it is to engage is civil intelligent disagreement.


            Dear NR,
            Lest we drive other KZB readers to fury, let me just summarize where we disagree. I see these assumptions that require Socratic examination:
            Economic considerations can be separated from moral considerations. Every economic structure, law, and policy we put in place involves making moral decisions, including the very concept of property rights.”

            Indeed.
            The issue is not solved by invoking extremely imprecise terms such as “human dignity”. For example, I would argue universal human dignity is best served by no one initiating violence on nobody else.

            Moreover, my assumption was that you did not dispute the existence of property rights. It’s usually futile to argue over things both parties can agree upon. If you do disagree on the existence of property rights, would you be so kind to send me your home address? I’m in need of a new TV set and I’m told yours is a brand new Samsung 80-inch Quantum Dot with a nice 7.1 sound bar in mate black.

            Appreciated!
            😀

            ““It’s my money. I earn it.” Only because a society provides you with a system that defines and creates property rights to start with.”

            Yes, and that in no way contradicts or undermines the argument. Past societies where no sate and no money formally existed still made room for property rights, as a result of direct voluntary trade. Why? Because no society, let alone civilization can exist and prosper without property rights. Human flourishing requires property rights. Ergo, absence of property rights is immoral.

            People who make the money get to decide how to spend it. It’s their prerogative. It includes giving it as inheritance to their kids. In fact, I would argue the reason a significant fraction of parents work as hard as they do is precisely because they want to leave their children better off.

            If one individual has no right to initiate force on another individual, the same applies to a group of individuals and, by extension, the state.

            “And all kinds of public goods (highways, law and order, etc.) that help you “earn” that money.”

            Most people understand that a degree of taxation is required if the state is ever to fulfil its role as the guarantee of individual rights. Some roads, you pay a fee to drive by, so that isn’t a real issue.

            There is also an argument to be made, with historical examples, why those public services and goods could just as easily be provided by private companies, but that would take too long to go though here.

            “No one is owed anything, except for so-called negative rights.” This is a fundamental moral disagreement. I believe that individuals are “owed” certain things simply by being members of a society.

            The moral conundrum with that assertion is that rights beyond negative-rights necessarily entail the violation of other people’s rights. Yet no one’s rights are ever violated when negative rights are upheld.

            That’s the superiority of this moral framework over yours.

            Say I have the best intentions – that historically pave the road to hell – and I say everyone is entitled a flat. That necessarily means no matter what this individual does or does not do, he will get a flat. And since that flat has to be built by someone, it requires materials that have to be procured and labour that has be payed for. The flat costs money. Where does the money come from? The State will use the implicit threat of violence upon citizens and collect taxes, not to safeguard their individual liberties, the legitimate role of taxation, but to finance that lovely flat with a view. The state will forcibly take away from some to give it to others.

            Compulsory altruism, compulsory philanthropy is immoral. Nevertheless, I could still decide to pay for that flat, if I were so inclined. I can still donate to charity, or write that individual a check. No one is stopping me.

            Therefore, your well-meaning expansion of rights necessarily entails the violation of the rights of others. It is therefore a moral contradiction and, ultimately, immoral.

            Thanks for your time and consideration.

            Hope to see you around and to trade notes on writing craft, the subject that brought us here. This blog frequently is an excellent source of that.

            Enjoy your weekend!

  2. If I may, and since having read of your time(s) in the “deep South” (Montgomery, I believe…), I read somewhere, last week, before the NYC numbers surged so, that one in ten COVID cases were in a swath from Louisiana (which we’ve heard about because of Katrina comparisons), through Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia – partly due to the endemic (if not pandemic), poverty of this region, following the War Between the States and Reconstruction and the aftermath (without trying to open another can of political worms here…),… Numerous authors have used a “Dickensonian” approach to their storytelling – perhaps another reason why “Southern Gothic” has the appeal it does…

    On another note, I, too, have noticed more birdsong than usual around my small, (antebellum), farm house just southwest of downtown Atlanta – under the approach/departure path the the airport’s three now-largely-unused runways some fifteen miles to the east… We’ve always had a large number of birds (and wild blooming trees) in and around the yard, and the sunrise every morning through the kitchen window overlooking the surrounding woods (that used to be barely subsistence farm land worked by my bride’s family from 1830 or so through the 1950’s), never fails to make me pause in wonder. Seems we relegate a lot to the background when we think everything’s all about us and don’t pause to be mindful of the world – including others – around us… Stop and smell the roses indeed… but also stop and look at those flowers.. and listen to the birds… and, albeit from a distance, your neighbors and folks you meet and rely on without realizing it…

    Thanks for letting me pontificate, Sir… Hoping our “flood” lasts only 40 days as well…but keeping my umbrella handy nonetheless… be careful, of course…

  3. Dear Mark Alpert,
    I really enjoyed your article – all of it. Thank you. I like your heart – so much so, you’ve inspired me to buy a copy of your latest book.
    Best wishes for peace and safety from Australia to your and yours, to Peeps and his feathered friends,
    Jay .

    • Thanks so much! My wife and I visited Australia for the first time last fall — our son was doing his semester abroad at the University of Western Australia in Perth — and we loved it! In addition to visiting our son, we met some old friends in Sydney and went scuba diving at Heron Island. Ever since the pandemic hit NYC, my wife and I have been saying how lucky we were to go on that trip before all this madness started.

      Speaking of birds, we were on Heron Island when the noddies descended on the place for nesting season, and it was an amazing sight! Plus, those mutton birds howling at night! There wasn’t a single insect on that island, they were too terrified to come near it!

  4. If you see Will Smith with a German Shepherd on the street, you will know you are in deep poo.

    I saw a local news report about the amount of unusual wildlife that’s being sighted in local cities and the countryside. Coyotes, wild turkeys, deer inside the cities, etc. The experts say they’re always there, we’ve just slowed down enough to notice them. I’m five minutes away from downtown, but I’m in the middle of my five acres with another ten that are unsuited to building because of creeks and flood planes, and I see everything but the coyotes almost daily. If the feral cats disappear, I’ll know the coyotes are here.

    MY local news is about unknown people sending pizzas to the ERs to thank the doctors, the local NASCAR racing companies using their equipment to build plastic face masks for first responders, the textile companies filled with volunteers who are turning out face masks to give away, kids putting up cheery signs for neighborhoods, and other things that regular people are doing to get us through this. We are not at an epicenter, but we aren’t pretending this isn’t happening, and we aren’t doing nothing.

    As far as our art is concerned, I was published in romance and fun science fiction adventure. My best fan letters were from readers thanking me for taking them away from the reality of sitting by a dying loved one and other miseries, and making them believe that things will be better through love and courage. If that’s not a reason to write “just entertainment,” I don’t know one. So, no thank you, on writing depressing social novels for me.

    Charles Dickens’ dark social novels are only read by English majors and Victorian geeks. His novels that are known by the average public and popularized with movies and TV series are his fun ones like A CHRISTMAS CAROL and OLIVER TWIST (misery with fun songs!). His dark social novels weren’t his path to posterity.

    • Just t’other day I saw deer grazing at the top of the exit ramp of a formerly congested Interstate intersection just outside the Atlanta perimeter highway….

      And my e-mail yesterday had a blog update about a major drum manufacturer retooling to make face shields from materials used to make snares, tom-toms, and bass drums… not to mention other stories of a track-and-field equipment manufacturer repurposing tents/tent structures for field hospitals, architectural firms working with furniture manufacturers to design temporary exam/holding/patient care facilities for airports and sports arenas, and, well, it’s pretty obvious creativeness comes in all manner, shape, and form of asking JSB’s writerly, “What if…?

  5. I appreciate this post today. Rather sorry, though, to have ventured in to what is normally a positive, and often instructive, comment section. Among the last things I wanted to experience today is sermons on Libertarian prosperity gospel.

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