We know that dire times drives art to new levels, but it’s also a great time for criticism. Why? Because we just might be running out of time to finally say what we think.
2020 struck awe into the hearts of men. A new plague took almost 600,000 Americans, and we saw their end-of-life iPads waiting for them on tripods. When police took Black American lives, and we saw that on camera too, it seemed like the whole world stepped outside in solidarity and anger.
In disorienting years like this literature proliferates, in the sense that many people start talking at the same time at complete odds with one other. Plenty of that literature consists not of books but of conversation, correspondence, or arguments. These are the things literary historians look at, because they’re all made of letters, which are the stuff of the present.
The upside to living, or at least writing, in a constant state of “emergency” is that we begin to feel that the time for talking may be running out, and so we start to say what we mean a little more.