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Writing the Virus

Monday, November 23, 7:00 PM Eastern Time: McNally Jackson, New York

Andrea Scrima speaks with Cheryl Sucher as part of the “Between Two Worlds” series about editing the new anthology Writing the Virus.

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“Vivid testimony to the depth and breadth of suffering during this uniquely stressful time.” Kirkus

In a time when the virus and the viral political climate form a single continuum, we’d like to announce Writing the Virusan anthology compiled from the Corona Issue published online at StatORec magazine from mid-April to September 2020. Its 31 authors—among them Joan Juliet Buck, Rebecca Chace, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Barbara Fischkin, Edie Meidav, Caille Millner, Uche Nduka, Mui Poopoksakul, Roxana Robinson, Jon Roemer, Joseph Salvatore, Liesl Schillinger, Andrea Scrima, Clifford Thompson, Saskia Vogel, Matthew Vollmer, and David Dario Winner—explore the experience of lockdown, quarantine, social distancing, and the politicization of the virus from a wide variety of perspectives: tracking the virus’s progression from epidemiological threat to international crisis and sketching out the evolution of Corona’s rapidly changing meaning over the past half year.  One of the first to offer advance praise is Jacquelyn Mitchard: 

The essays and reportage in StatORec’s new anthology are about time: Time is upon us. Time may be running out. Time is lost; time is found. This is a new time, in which our Western predilection to plan is revealed as a cardboard construct, blown down by an enemy contained in a breath. Yet with its literary response in real time, this dedicated issue stands as witness to our illusions and our failures but also to our tenacious willingness to love and to learn. 

Writing the Virus, ed. by Andrea Scrima and David Winner, publication date: November 1, 2020. (9781944853754, 280 pages, $18.50, Outpost 19 Books). 

AUTHORS’ VIDEOS: 

The downtown Manhattan performing arts space HERE Arts Center has been featuring a video each week of our authors reading short excerpts from their essays, poems, and short stories in an exclusive #stillHERE with StatORec playlist

Writing the Virus can be ordered on Amazon or directly from the publisher

ADDITIONAL PRAISE FOR WRITING THE VIRUS

We live in the era of the pandemic, more than one million still die each year of TB, 700,000 from HIV and AIDS, nearly half a million of malaria. And since January: COVID-19. As I read Writing the Virus, the death toll from this new disease surpassed one million. The scale of this loss is unimaginable. We need to feel it one person at a time, which is exactly what Writing the Virus does with its moving diaries and essays, with its psalms of grief. This is a hard issue to read, but it preserves the truth of a bitter, bitter time, maybe it will even help us mourn. A task many of the world’s most powerful governments have proven unwilling and even eager not to do.  —John Freeman, author of How to Read a Novelist and The Park; editor of the Freeman’s anthologies

The months spent living in the shadow of the pandemic have compressed and expanded time in unusual ways. Writing the Virus is an important and compelling reminder of the days we might otherwise lose to the haze of the past and evidence of the myriad reckonings—public and personal—that will shape us going forward.  —Oscar Villalon, Editor, Zyzzyva 

If a literary remedy could soothe the nested anxieties of our current moment, Writing the Virus would be the antidote we’ve been seeking. This bold new anthology from the editors of StatORec draws on 30 essays, stories, excerpts, and poems published on the magazine’s website as the pandemic unfolded. The authors, including Edie Meidav, Uche Nduka, and Liesl Schillinger, share trenchant investigations and paeans to love and survival while the irregular rhythms of locked-down days undulate beneath the surface. This impressive anthology lets readers view the virus, racial violence, and volatile political climate as a triad within a continuum. A testament to the vital role of writers—as witnesses, chroniclers, translators, synthesizers, resistors—during uncertain times, Writing the Virus will energize, enrage, and give you reasons to be hopeful. The anthology’s epic scope reveals why 2020 is an inflection point, the year of plagues and miracles.  —Margot Douaihy, Editor, Northern New England Review

Covid-19 is the new normal, an unprecedented cultural shift that pressurizes our communities and estrangements, requiring us to reinvent the discourse we use to describe the “everyday.” This anthology provides us with vital and thoughtful dispatches from inside the virus’s transformative, insidious tedium. Vulnerable, bold, tentative, utopic, Writing the Virus gave me un-Zoomy succor from some of the best essayists writing today.  Carmen Giménez Smith, author of Be Recorder and Cruel Futures

This mighty chorus of voices, carefully mixed and layered, pierces the muddled noise of our pandemic moment. How thrilling and comforting to witness some of our most powerful writers wielding their best weapons against “the invisible enemy”—shimmering artistry, ruthless candor, and a fearless gaze. —Debra Jo Immergut, author of You Again and The Captives

How to take the temperature of this crisis, this opportunity, this nightmare, this wake-up call? Writing the Virus rounds up a wonderfully diverse array of voices, each addressing—in its own singular, memorable way—all that the pandemic has laid bare. This collection gives us what we need now: talented writers of all stripes, weighing in with honesty, vigor, anguish, and hope. Read this book: it’ll help.  —Martha Cooley, author of The Archivist and Thirty-three Swoons

StatORec, which stands for “Statement of Record,” is an online literary magazine founded by writer and filmmaker John Reed. 

Outpost 19 Books is an award-winning publisher of fine fiction and nonfiction books based in San Francisco. Their titles have been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and dozens of other major and indie media outlets.

It’s our belief that these pieces of writing, composed in unusual times and under considerable pressure, will endure as documents of a particular period of history, testimonies to states of mind we will quite possibly have forgotten as we turn our attention to the new challenges facing us.

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Statorec inaugurated its Corona Issue on April 16, 2020 with an essay by the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Andrea Scrima, titled Corona Report. Returning from Italy at the end of February 2020, just as the first lockdowns went into place, she reflects on the beginnings of the pandemic and on the Bergamo/Valencia soccer game in Milan, the biological bomb that led to the virus’s rapid spread throughout northern Italy. The hallucinatory prose in William Cody Maher’s Double Featurepublished one week later, gropes its way through a labyrinth of internalized fear as human encounters are measured in terms of physical distance. In late April, Statorec editor David Dario Winner’s Daisy Assassin followed, which exposes the uncomfortable barriers of ethnicity, civic cooperation, and racism as experienced by someone going out for what is no longer an ordinary run. In Windows, Beverly Gologorsky’s quiet meditations probe the geography of pandemic isolation, while in Excerpts from Another Love Discourse, taken from a novel-in-progress, Edie Meidav weaves the virus’s sudden appearance into a larger narrative of love and loss. German jazz pianist Christian von der Goltz’s Halted Time listens to what’s behind the eerie silence of the virus’s global spread; Matthew Vollmer reflects on some of the quirkier aspects of lockdown in his kaleidoscopic Quarantine Diary; and Aimee Parkison’s dreamlike riff Masks and Guns captures America in all its dangerous absurdity in a cops and robbers game gone horribly wrong.

As the pandemic made its way around the globe, the end of May saw the publication of former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Joan Juliet Buck’s Corona Diarywhich masterfully assesses the wear and tear on the psyche as we attempt to navigate this strange time, while Alice Stephens’s After Ginger reflects on anti-Asian and anti-Asian-American sentiment in times of Corona—and how some things don’t seem to change. In Rooms and Clarinets, Clifford Thompson reflects on Covid, racism, Malcolm X, lockdown, and discovering a new room within to make one’s voice heard; Alexander Graeff’s Perpetuum Mobile describes long-distance love and patriarchy in times of pandemic; and Scott Martingell’s Poems in Times of Corona expose the little hypocrisies spoon-fed to us by the powers that be. As the Black Lives Matter protests flared up in early June, Nigerian-American poet Uche Nduka’s Speaking of Which: Work in Progress probes racism’s dark and violent undercurrent in American society, while Rebecca Chace’s Masks and Gloves looks at white privilege and “I can’t breathe” in the Corona crisis. Barbara Fischkin’s essay Autism in the Time of Covid details one man’s lockdown in disabled housing, and Jon Roemer’s Uncertainty Ever After explores what it means to be a writer in precarious times.

In her provocative essay White Fantasy: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Covid, and the Myth of Self-Sufficiency, Joan Marcus unmasks the unsavory sentiments behind one of America’s most-cherished narratives—the conquest of the West—while Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer’s We Are Dreaming of the Future Season chronicles the author’s escape from Manhattan to the comparative, albeit unsettling, calm of Maine. In Between Two Worlds, Cheryl Sucher investigates the stark differences in the way the Covid-19 pandemic has been handled (and virtually eradicated) in her second home of New Zealand, while practicing physician and writer Christine Henneberg’s Pain and Coping describes women’s increasing vulnerability to mental and physical pain during and after an abortion procedure. Caille Millner’s Something New appeals to the power of love in the Black community as our strongest and most promising force for change; Mui Poopoksakul’s The Blue Vial delves into the psychological aspects of what appears to be an anti-Asian hate crime with a curiously absent culprit; and Zeynep Camuşcu’s Corona in Istanbul highlights the unerring behavior of a city’s irrepressible inhabitants. In Flattening the Curve, John Casquarelli and Aydin Behnam imagine a dystopian future in a haunting counterpoint of poetry and prose, while Saskia Vogel’s Around the Bend looks at new motherhood and the reconfigured geometry of transatlantic family ties in times of pandemic.

In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, Roxana Robinson has written a powerful essay on the post-Cold War militarization of the police and the racist roots of police brutality. Militarizing the Police traces the history of armed police in the US from the peacekeeping forces in colonial times and the slave patrols of the American South to the preventative violence practiced by white militias in the post-Civil War era that could not endure the sight of armed Black freedmen. Cecilia Hansson’s My Body Has Failed Me and Now I’m About to Die revisits the lung ailments of Thomas Bernhard and Franz Kafka as she suffers through a debilitating period of viral infection with SARS-CoV-2; Tiffany Winters’s Hope Interrupted: Organ Transplantation in the Middle of a Pandemic details the unknowable in an essay on grief and the incomprehensibility of medical decision-making; and Liesl Schillinger’s Hope in the Age of Covid probes fact checking and the mined landscape of hope in perilous times. To conclude StatORec’s Corona Issue, Joseph Salvatore’s In the Time of “In the Time of”—a brilliant and moving work of literary criticism, linguistic essay, and personal testimony in one—asks when we will be able to mourn the Covid deaths, when we will be “allowed to grieve and mourn the loss of our old lives.”

True to its mission, Statorec (“Statement of Record”) is motivated by the urge to record a variety of voices going through the same experience, but in very different ways—before the drive to return to normality blots out the memory of lockdown, of charts and graphs and epidemiological factoids. It’s this we find ourselves thinking about the most: how our reality shifts with each new outrage, and how little we understand about the way these events are changing us in the long term. As we undergo a kind of grinding down of reality in the process of adapting to unheard-of change, what motivates us to publish this issue is the feeling that there’s a fragile chance to be seized, if only we could sustain our attention and belief long enough to act on it.