Archive for March, 2020


Ten days ago my last public “event” was to be in conversation in a local bookstore with fellow author and friend, Antoinette Constable, about her new Y.A. novel, Natalie: In the Shadow of the Swastika. It is based on true experiences—her own—as a young Jewish girl living in Paris during the Nazi occupation. It is a beautiful rendering of a young child’s personal transformation,from ages eight to thirteen, and the parallel story of her growing understanding of what horrors are occurring around her.

But in addition to being a gripping personal story and a grim history lesson, it is also a story about persistent and grueling deprivation. That aspect of it really struck me as the lights in the bookstore—and everywhere–went dark, and we all turned our attention to self-isolating and new ways of survival in the age of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

It occurred to me that much of the book and a lot of the thoughts of young Natalie concern food: the lack of it; memories of it; dreams of it; and for a brief period during a visit to her critically ill father in Switzerland, the delicious reality of it. Fresh baked bread, butter, jams and hams, cakes, and thick cream and cheeses from Normandy. These are the things that occupy the fantasies of a hungry girl, who later in real life will become a caterer and marvelous chef.

But there are other things that preoccupy her too: the lack of heat, and having to survive for season after season in a cold house; the Germans who terrify her in the streets, sometimes knock on the door in search of her Jewish mother, and bomb the house next door to bits; the constant fear that her mother will simply not return home one day, and she and her sisters will be on their own.

Of course, millions of children across the world have experienced such terrors, and continue to. Millions in our own country live with inexcusable deprivation all the time in our land of abundance, even before an event like the Covid-19 coronavirus swept through our land and the entire world. But many millions of others of us are lucky, blessed, and have warm and safe houses to shelter in and access to food, services and medical care.

For us, this represents an upheaval of our daily lives and expectations, but to date not real deprivation in the sense that others have known and know it. Realistically, we do not and will not likely face starvation, cold, and constant terror. That is what I remind myself when I cannot find an item I’m accustomed to on a strangely empty shelf, or when my professional and personal calendar is suddenly bare.

That is what I want my grandchildren to know when they read this book that I am sending them. And what I want them to take away from it is not only how lucky they are, but how they as well as we adults need to be thinking of ways to alleviate the pain of those around us who are not.


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by Nick Farriella

Dearest Rosemary,

It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that, he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious as to his sources.

The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.

You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.

Faithfully yours,
F. Scott Fitzgerald

From: McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies

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