Fiction With COVID Frisson

This past Thursday, March 11, was the one-year anniversary of when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic and various countries went into COVID lockdown. It’s also the one-year anniversary of COVID coloring my reaction to the content of non-pandemic novels — at least a little.

No surprise there. One’s life can affect how we react to literature, and COVID has had a huge impact on our lives. When reading fiction in 2020 and 2021, I sometimes overtly and sometime subconsciously thought of the pandemic.

The latest instance for me, this past week, involved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith’s poignant, memorable, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel may have been published in 1943, but parts of it really resonated in this time of coronavirus.

How? A Tree Grows in Brooklyn‘s young, bright, impoverished, early-20th-century protagonist Francie Nolan has vivid school experiences as a preteen/teen that reminded me that my similarly aged younger daughter has been doing remote instruction since March 2020. The requirement that Francie get the smallpox vaccine before starting school reminded me of the COVID-vaccine shots now sweeping the planet. Francie living in a city neighborhood of tenements reminded me how crowded milieus are unfortunately conducive to spreading disease. And the novel’s Brooklyn setting reminded me that, despite my living just 12 miles west of New York City (where I worked for several decades and continued to visit fairly often), I haven’t traveled there for over a year.

(The photo atop this blog post is from 1945’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn movie.)

When reading other novels last year such as Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie’s Americanah, I thought once again of COVID’s racial and economic disparities — with people of color and people of lower incomes much more affected.

Heidi? As I finally got to Johanna Spyri’s classic last year, all that fresh air in the mountains of Switzerland sure sounded non-pandemic-y — though the novel included a major secondary character who was ill.

Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine? Many haven’t been able to say the same during the pandemic, though that novel’s title was mostly meant to be ironic.

While enjoying Lee Child’s/Andrew Child’s Jack Reacher novel The Sentinel this year, I fantasized about the powerful Reacher punching out COVID.

And during the pandemic’s early days of March 2020, I read Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers — about nine imperfect guests at a health resort. I was lamenting at the time that my wife and I had just canceled an April 2020 family vacation, but, then again, there was the silver lining of there being no chance of staying in lodgings as weird and scary as the one Moriarty depicted. 🙂

Every novel I mentioned in this post was published before COVID, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t spur pandemic-related feelings. And in coming years, of course, a not-insignificant chunk of literature will undoubtedly reference this time of coronavirus.

Has some of the fiction you’ve read during the past year made you think of COVID? Any examples you’d like to offer?

Then there is fiction directly about pandemics and such, which I covered last year.

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest piece — about a settlement that will bring some of my town’s teachers back into schools next month — is here.

90 thoughts on “Fiction With COVID Frisson

  1. Pingback: Can Jack Reacher survive the pandemic? – Tom's Tales of Woe

  2. Well Dave, I haven’t had much time to read this last year, what with all the drawing & sewing. Strange, but I find music conducive for drawing and sewing, but audio books don’t work for me, in that sense.
    The few books I read were mostly by Shehanne Moore.. you know period romance and all the women wear gowns. I’ve taken to drawing her heroines, as I imagine them in their gowns.
    However, now that you mention it, I have since lockdown began, become fascinated by the fact that Shakespeare lived through a pandemic. Although it seems it was mostly in the city of London, and he resided in Stratford-upon-Avon.

    Yet, many things in life make me think of Covid. Just like things you think of when you read make you think of it.
    The idea lingers that man has always struggled with viruses, bacteria and diseases.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Resa!

      Wonderful that you’ve done a lot of drawing and sewing during COVID! Sorry audiobooks don’t work when you’re doing that; I can understand — books in the background demand more concentration than music in the background.

      And I love that Shehanne Moore’s novels have inspired some of your recent creativity!

      Many people (myself included) tend to not associate Shakespeare with a pandemic, but there is definitely quite a connection there.

      Last but not least, your comment’s final line is unfortunately too true. I hope one day that will no longer be the case, but, if so, that would be way in the future. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • Take care, Dave!
        Tonight I wrestle with; do I make an appointment tomorrow to get the AstraZeneca shot, or wait 4-6 weeks for a Pfizer, perhaps a Moderna.
        Lol, it’s one of those horrid choices I’m fortunate to have.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You, too, Resa!

          That’s a tough decision. Good luck with it.

          I got the Moderna vaccine, which had no side effects for me. But it wasn’t a choice — it was the only vaccine available in the area where I live.

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  3. Yes Dave,  Lee Child’s/Andrew Child’s Jack Reacher novel The Sentinel was great and I am looking forward to reading more of Andrew Child`s ageless, chatty Richard with more brains than killer instincts.

    I was also thinking about AIDs epidemic. AIDS were reported in the United States in June of 1981. 32.7 million [24.8 million–42.2 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic (end 2019).

    That brings me back to John Irving`s brilliant Novel ” In One Person  

    ” Irving writes  is about a young bisexual man who falls in love with an older transgender woman—Miss Frost, the librarian in a Vermont public library.  The bi guy is the main character, but two transgender women are the heroes of this novel—in the sense that these two characters are the ones my bisexual narrator, Billy Abbott, ”
    Later Billy became a brilliant Novelist and narates his sexual escapades , watchin his friends succumb to AIDS.

    Irving as we know is always writes about underdogs.
    After that Novel I have not come across another of his Brilliant Novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, bebe! I agree that “The Sentinel” was an excellent read, and that Andrew Child made Reacher chattier than we’ve been used to from Lee Child.

      Yes, AIDS was a huge pandemic, and it’s not over. 😦 One similarity to COVID was the way a Republican president (Reagan then, Trump more recently) botched the response.

      As you know, I read “In One Person” on your recommendation, and found it to be a very compelling saga of when AIDS was at its height. Plus really interesting characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pepys, of course, mixing fear with enthusiastic rejection of the 2 meters rule.. And Defoe – both handy, ( pandemic for a Masters)
    Intriguingly, via a Jane Austen detour – the Gardiners’ trip to Derbyshire, a link which led to fascinating correction of the Eyam, Derbyshire story. Academic studies, very different from the legendary heroics and self-sacrifice, focusing on the promotion of late 18th C tourism. .

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Esther, for the Pepys, Defoe, and Austen (via “Pride and Prejudice”) mentions! These days, reading about characters’ trips in fiction definitely can evoke feelings of jealousy and/or vicarious enjoyment when we haven’t been able to safely travel much ourselves in 2020 and 2021.

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  5. As I have felt literally surrounded by the pandemic since it first spread throughout my city, NYC, I have had no interest in reading about plagues of any kind, and have thus put off reading a recently acquired early 19th century novel by Brockden Brown titled “Arthur Mervyn; or Memoirs of the Year 1793”, which concerns an outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia.

    I am a veteran of Camus’ “The Plague” and Artaud’s “The Theater and Plague”, but decades ago. I have no idea when I would be comfortable to return to these works, or desire to read more on this forbidding theme, though in the case of Artaud, the plague is a metaphor for how a total theatrical experience should move audience and actors. What I do remember most about Camus’s book is the upside-down turnabout high-is-low effect that impending death by disease had on society– thieves helped the sick, priests and doctors stole from them, etc.

    Carlos Fuentes’ “Terra Nostra”, a sprawling masterwork by many accounts, was a bigger bite than I cared to chew after some hundreds of pages,and concerns itself with plague, flagellants, etc. in 16th century Spain for a while before moving on in time and space to other centuries and places. The characters reappear throughout, I think— but it’s been 40 years since the novel and I parted ways.

    Lately, in hopes (realized) of an entirely entertaining reading pleasure, I have been reading Thomas de Quincy’s “Literary Reminiscences”, in which I learned, among other things, that William Wordsworth was so careless with books that the poet Robert Southey was loathe to let him into his library. De Quincy avows to this troubling trait– once, when Wordsworth spotted a book (“Burke’s Works”) on De Quincy’s shelves at teatime, he was so intent to get at its insides that he took up the knife lately used for spreading butter on bread to cut open the pages of the book, leaving butter stains on the pages for all time.

    De Quincy also reveals that Samuel Coleridge was also hard on books, but in a good way. Whatever he read, whether owned by himself or borrowed, was after so copiously filled with marginalia, that in the ordinary sense, the book was spoiled. However, the mind of the man was so variously gifted and learned, that De Quincy, in a footnote, suggests that a literary fund be established for the purpose of collecting up all the books Coleridge had made notes in, and publishing the notes!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, jhNY!

      I totally get not wanting to read pandemic-related literature when one has been living it in one of COVID’s 2020 epicenters. (My NYC-based older daughter and her husband both got serious cases of COVID last spring.)

      It has also been a while since I read Camus’ “The Plague,” but I remember it being a riveting novel for various reasons — including the upside-down one you mentioned.

      Love those anecdotes (which I never heard before) about the very disparate things Wordsworth and Coleridge did to books!

      Liked by 1 person

      • There was a joke surrounding the “Burke’s Works” bit, in that De Quincy first let the reader know it had sat undisturbed and uncut (and thus unread) on his shelf for decades before Wordsworth took the knife to it.

        Which reminded me of that great Thomas Paine quote re Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France”: “He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird”, which later, slightly altered, became the title of a pamphlet on the topic of press treatment of workers versus its coverage of royalty, written by Shelley.

        Hope your daughter and her husband have recovered well, and of course, I am sorry that they caught the stuff. Must have worried you a lot.

        Liked by 2 people

      • OMG …NYT`s Maggie ?

        With trump presidency, his constant lies, ignoring insurgence of COVID-19 I am so tired of depressing news. Now with murder of George Floyd Killed in Police Custody. And senseless brutality on Asian Americans, and the recent murder of georgia I an staying away from sad Novels. .

        But watched a movie “Just mercy “, on HBO, Just Mercy based on a true story.
        ” Sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit – the true story behind gripping drama. In August 1988, a black man named Walter McMillian, known as Johnny D, was sentenced to death for the murder of a white teenage girl in Monroeville, Alabama. His trial lasted less than two days ”

        The main reason I watch the movie for the main actor Michael B. Jordan, ( Sexiest man in People this year) , have seen him as a teen in a soap, I could not believe that young kid turned out to be such a brilliant actor.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yes, bebe, Maggie unfortunately had COVID last spring. Sick for several weeks, but now doing fine.

          The “Just Mercy” movie looks and sounds amazing — depressing and inspiring. Glad you got a chance to see it. Michael B. Jordan IS a great actor.

          And the news can indeed be so depressing — the Atlanta murders and so much more. 😦

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes…I had no clue who Michael B. Jordan was until I saw him on Peoples magazing.
            Reading found out he was that smart alec kid in All My Children ( soap ).
            Great acting and found out he was in some blocbuster movie.
            Clueless me 😆

            Liked by 2 people

          • Oh Dave..today is a perfect day and I walked my usual mile and a quarter .
            Coming back my next door neighbor, a good man was driving by, lowered his window and we were chatting.
            He was a strong Trump supporter and now he started talking about how he is still crazy about him, and started using the talking points of FOX.
            A good family man, with two teen girls, was very helpful, I simply could not believe what he was saying.
            Trump will be the next President and I said well, he will go to jail, he started giggling.

            What is wrong with Trump supporters is beyond me.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Yes, a gorgeous day, bebe — in the 60s and sunny in New Jersey. Glad you got a nice walk in!

              And I share your puzzlement and horror over how people can still support Trump. It seems there is NO thing Trump can do awful enough to lose that hard-core support. 😦 Sorry your neighbor is one of his diehard fans. 😦

              Liked by 1 person

              • Problem, is a supposedly good man raising two girls, far from being racist.
                He said to me one time he objects to BLM signs, again their talking points ” All lives matter “, so lost in translation.

                I have a feeling most of my neighbors were and still is Trump supporters.
                But down the street one gentleman orginally from NY perhaps ins his late 70`s, told me ( he could not stand Trump ) long ago, he was positive DT will lose election , and there will not be any republican Party after DT.

                Liked by 1 person

  6. HI Dave, I found your comments about how the impact of C-19 has coloured your reading experiences interesting. I have read two books that detail people’s experiences during lockdown [both predominantly featuring experiences in the UK which is in keeping with the British inclination to record history in a written form] but have not read any recent books that even acknowledge C-19. Perhaps that is because we have get to see how it is going to change the modern landscape going forward. I have been working from home for over a year now and rarely think about why anymore. I just consider myself lucky not to have to drive in heavy traffic to work and back every day. I think working from home will feature significantly going forward but maybe that is wishful thinking.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Robbie, and thank you for the comment!

      Yes, some authors might be waiting to absorb, contemplate, see the ultimate effect of this COVID time before writing about it. Maybe it’s also a bit of a lag thing where some authors already wrote/are writing about it but those books haven’t come out quite yet.

      I agree that working from home can be great! (I’ve done it since 2008, so things didn’t change much for me in that respect during the past year.) No traffic, commuting, etc. I think a larger percentage of the workforce will be at home after COVID than before COVID.

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  7. Hi Dave,

    I’ve never felt more lucky to be in Australia than I do right now. Though we’ve had our challenges and inconveniences, we’ve mostly been spared the devastation of the pandemic. I remember in the early days it was easy to panic about it though. Struggling to find the concentration to read, I found TV quite comforting. But like rajatnarula, it’s hard to watch favourites like Friends without being horrified at their lack of distancing. It’s amazing how quickly it becomes the new normal.

    Stephen King is always good literary comfort food, however one of my faves The Stand is all about a pandemic, and even when the world isn’t turned on its head, that book always seems to give me a cold. I couldn’t put myself through that last year!

    I did however finally tick all of Shakespeare’s plays off my list. And once I was done reading them, I went back to the quite lengthy (but interesting) introduction about the life and works of the bard. Of course, more than one plague made it hard for William to get to work, but even he sometimes just had to stay the heck at home! What got me though was how blasé the writer was. Oh, there was a plague, the theatres were shut. And I wanted to ask what else was shut?! Were hardware shops considered essential (still trying to get my head around why they remained open here in Oz)?! Could he get Uber Eats?! Did he make any TikTok videos?! Suddenly that time of 400+ years ago felt much more real and relevant to today. Funny what can bring people together 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Susan!

      Wonderful that Australia has been less affected by COVID than many other places — though, as you say, not problem-free. And, yes, seeing TV shows or anything else where there’s no social-distancing and no masks can look strange. One single year changed perceptions a LOT.

      Stephen King indeed writes fiction that can put our minds in a different place — a good thing. Of course, most of his work, including the pandemic-themed “The Stand” you mentioned, is quite unsettling, so that “different place” is often not pleasant.

      Fantastic that you read all the Shakespeare plays on your list! Definitely many societal, disease, and other challenges during his lifetime. Ha — Uber Eats and TikTok. 😂 Now I’m wondering what kind of cell-phone reception and wifi The Bard got. “Roaming charges, roaming charges…wherefore art thou roaming charges?”

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  8. I’ll be interested to see how/whether future novels reference the pandemic. It almost feels like an unavoidable topic, and certainly a few will capitalise on this as a background for their works, but I wonder how many authors will feel compelled to at least nod towards a year of COVID

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Becky!

      It does sound like “Magic Lessons” resonates with the current COVID age on several levels. “…dealing with what life throws at you, and most of all, survival” — that seriously sums it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for mention on, “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” I’m glad you were able to read. Definitely a favorite book. I also recommend the film. Over last few months, I read ” Eleanor Oliphant” and it’s a highly engaging,relatable book with a twist at the end.

    Mental health challenges have been exacerbated during this pandemic. Isolation,uncertainty,financial worry and of course health concerns just a few major issues.

    Many people can say on an email or text,they are “fine.” When one asks, “how are you doing,really? can open up a conversation, by phone,zoom,etc..particularly when there is a comfort level. One needs to feel safe,not judged. It helps immensely to really talk about how you feel.

    I haven’t read but, “Love In The Time of Cholera ” highly applicable to this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michele!

      I saw the “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” movie many years ago, and liked it a lot, but somehow never read the wonderful novel until last week.

      The “Eleanor Oliphant” book was excellent in its quirky way. And that reveal near the end? I didn’t see it coming, but it made sense.

      You’re so right that the pandemic has increased mental-health challenges (in addition to the physical health challenges, of course).

      “Love in the Time of Cholera” is a memorable book — though I have some mixed feelings about it. Definitely relevant when discussing disease and literature.

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  10. I nominate A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, about the English village of Eyam that quarantined itself during the plague in 1666, told from the viewpoint of the housemaid. While our modern world sanitation, conveniences, and sturdy homes give so much better odds and shelter compared to 1666, the loneliness, uncertainty, and isolation is surely relatable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Suzette! Well said!

      “A Year of Wonders” sounds like quite an historical novel — and indeed very relevant to 2020-21 despite being published 20 years ago.

      I read Geraldine Brooks’ “March” on your recommendation a while back, and was VERY impressed with that story about the “Little Women” dad’s harrowing Civil War experiences.

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  11. It’s always a great pleasure, Dave, to get involved into your thoughts and your feelings! I am not sure anymore, whether I have already mentioned that I have been reading again in “La peste” de Camus and the moral and physical disintegration. In the “Year of the Flood” by Margaret Atwood I felt the arrogance of the nowadays powerful people so much that it produced real pain within me. With “Americanah” I also had feelings like you, Dave, as far as racial problems are concerned and, above all, I was repelled by The Western consumerism. With “Heidi” I grew up and Clara in the wheelchair in the healthy Swiss mountains remains, as well as Heidi, Peter and “de Alpöhi”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Martina!

      “The Plague” and “The Year of the Flood” definitely have a LOT to say about living in a pandemic. Both novels are very worth reading — as is “Americanah.” You’re right that key elements in the last book were virulent racism and over-the-top consumerism in the United States. 😦

      “Heidi” is such a compelling novel. I’m glad I FINALLY read it last year. I can see how it especially resonated for you given your having lived not that far from where it was set.

      Like

      • I remember when I read Heidi to my daughter I had the feeling that life on the mountains was a little bit idealised! Of course, you have your great mountains, space or (had) good air to give you enery, but to work on the steep hills and to carry all the heavy loads on the back, was certainly not always easy!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Excellent point, Martina, about some idealization probably going on in “Heidi.” Some physically difficult aspects to that mountain life, as you noted, plus living in sparsely populated places can be isolating.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. What a great topic, Dave. This is the third time around – I needed time to consider a book that I read that included pandemics and sickness. I will be digressing here to non-fiction, but this book read like a page-turner novel. The narrative was real, horrific, even as it was a testament to courage, exploration and the push to find solutions. The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough, is a story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of building a canal. The problem was sanitation – the warm Panamanian climate was a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which carried malaria and yellow fever. Early French crews lost an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 workers to yellow fever in outbreaks between 1882 and 1888. In 1900, Dr. Walter Reed (1851 – 1902) proved that yellow fever was spread by the female mosquito. But it was Dr. William Gorgas (1854 – 1920) who examined the area and found a way, by 1905, to eliminate yellow fever from the Canal Zone. Here is a quote that suggested that the decision to follow Dr. Gorgas’s course of remediation was not always easy to make. This is a quote front the book: “ You are facing one of the greatest decisions of your career. You must choose between Shonts and Gorgas. If you fall back upon the old methods of sanitation, you will fail, just as the French failed. If you back up Gorgas and his ideas and let him pursue his campaign against the mosquitoes, you will get your canal.” David McCullough, The Path Between the Seas

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Liz!

      Cholera, wasn’t it, that was part of “The Painted Veil”? Very relevant mention. It’s a compelling novel — one of my Maugham favorites along with “Of Human Bondage,” “The Moon and Sixpence,” “The Razor’s Edge,” and “Cakes and Ale.”

      Liked by 3 people

    • Oh Liz!! You beat me toi it although I never read that during the last year. But I have read it and you’re right. The backdrop is a cholera epidemic in a Chinese village. Dave, I loved Tree Grows. haven’t read it in years but it is an amazing book, often overlooked these days. . One book I did reread this last year was Du maurier’s The King’s General and when the house is occupied and the family and servants are all told what they can and cannot do, I thought, ‘Was this seriously a good idea for a read right now?’ So after that I was very careful in my picks.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I have just read a sentence in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” Rebecca, “Whatever mama does, thought Francie, “it will be the right thing”. I think that it is absolutely great, if you can have this kind of trust in a mother, whatever situation!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, Shehanne! “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” IS a terrific novel that doesn’t get quite the love in the 21st century as some other mid-20th-century books. It is exquisitely written, wise, compassionate, and detailed — and it’s refreshing to read a novel that focuses on lower-income people, and does that without patronization. Maybe it would get more respect if it had been written by a male author? 😦

        I love Daphne du Maurier’s work, but I can definitely see how some novels would not be appealing to read during a pandemic. A great point by you!

        Liked by 1 person

        • You’re very kind Dave. And you are so right re the focus in Tree. I remember reading it when i was about 10, living in quite a poor area although we were any of us thought we were that and thinking, wow, people actually write about lower income people and as you say not in a patronising way either. She has to have lived it to write it.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m all for Jack Reacher punching out COVID!

    Now, when I read anything that’s written in the 1920s, I can’t help but wonder how these authors must have been affected – although there’s very little reference – by the 1918 pandemic.

    I did buy my husband some books as gifts that have been linked to events over the past year. Maybe you won’t think I’m quite so generous or thoughtful after you hear a couple of the titles….one, actually was an unqualified success and is Grayson Perry’s “Art Club”. This followed on from the TV show he put together during the first UK lockdown. It’s quite a joy. The other book, less subtle, was Daniel Defoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year”. It can be read as a fiction or non-fiction account of the 1665 plague, but written/published in 1722.

    But yes, I do agree, I’ve been a little more mindful of current events when I’ve been reading (and watching movies/tv) in recent months.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Sarah! Yes, Jack Reacher can do his worst. 🙂

      I hear you about the major impact the century-ago flu pandemic might have had, but didn’t seem to, on literature. When I was finishing “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” today, I wondered if that pandemic would be mentioned, but the often-referenced-current-events novel basically ended around 1917/early 1918 — just before disaster struck.

      “A Journal of the Plague Year” is on my to-read list (commenter “robbiesinspiration” also recommended it a few weeks ago). A very appropriate book for 2020-21 despite its 17th- and 18th-century roots!

      Liked by 2 people

    • This thought has been with me for some time– that for all the writing and pontificating about the Roaring Twenties here in the US, there was surprisingly, perhaps somehow tellingly, nearly no emphasis on the possible effects of the Spanish Flu on the heedless and hedonistic impulses that have long characterized the period. After all, though the AEF suffered heavy losses in specific campaigns, overall the American troops arrived to finish the war, and suffered, by comparison to France and Great Britain (both having also gathered to themselves troops out of their colonies) far fewer casualties.

      Yet it’s at the feet of the Great War, its debilitating effects on the morale and character of veterans, and the pent-up desires of a rationed public loosed after Armistice, that all cause is heaped. And of course, in those nations that lost a generation of its young men to war, the Spanish Flu came in after as well, killing as it could, and has enjoyed in those places the same degree of inattention as to lasting effects that worked their way through the following decade.

      I have concluded that people at the time, and after, were and are inured to war, even the horrendous costs in all categories that war entails, but then (and to some extent, now) were unprepared to recognize that a sweeping pandemic might do as much psychological damage as war, and cause as much social change. War is manmade, and theoretically might be stopped by man. Pandemic is beyond our control, in the making at least, and death by such unhuman forces may have been (and may for some yet be) too much to bear, for an age obsessed by the force and scope of human will and endeavor to comfortably contemplate, or fully take in.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, jhNY! Very eloquent and thought-provoking comment.

        I can see how many people in the 1920s wanted to forget the flu pandemic — scarier than war in a way, as you noted — and have a good time. And, as you also noted, The Great War had a bigger impact on Europe than the U.S., though of course it was still traumatic given that plenty of American soldiers were also killed or wounded.

        There were certainly many more novels that fully or partly focused on what is now known as World War I than novels that focused on the flu pandemic. Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front,” W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge,” Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” Willa Cather’s “One of Ours,” Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun,” etc.

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