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I haven’t done a good job lately of telling Ricochet what I’m writing about and where to find it. I’ve resolved to change this. Sign up here for my free newsletter, which I’m now sending out every day (because I’m stuck in my apartment and I can’t go out to work).
These days, I’ve been writing about—what else—the pandemic. France is about ten days behind Italy and ten days ahead of the United States. So recently I’ve been writing about what Americans should expect, ten days from now, and unfortunately, this has proven very accurate.
I’ve also been writing about news that’s getting pushed off the front page because no one has the bandwidth right now, but this is news that really would be on the front pages of every newspaper, under normal circumstance. Around the world, eager despots are using this virus as an excuse to crack down on basic liberties. Russia and China are both acting in highly organized, effective ways to exploit the world’s confusion and chaos, and America’s distraction. Italy, for example—a NATO country—has invited the Russian military to come to Italy and run amok under the guise of “providing medical assistance.” So for the first time in history, the Red Army convoys are speeding through Italy—on NATO infrastructure. Usually, we’d think of that as a very big deal. These days? You have to subscribe to my newsletter to learn about it.
I’ve also invited readers to send me letters about their experiences of the virus and quarantine. I’ve published letters from Rome, Madrid, London, Delhi, Sydney, Paris, Singapore, Jerusalem, and from a very diverse sample of American cities. The letters people have sent me have blown my mind. I was expecting people to reply, but I wasn’t emotionally prepared for what they’d say. People seem to really need to tell this story, and tell it properly—I’m not receiving Tweets illustrated with emojis, I’m getting real letters—thoughtful, serious letters that might be source material, one day, for historians of the pandemic. They actually remind me of letters sent during the Civil War. This takes me aback, because I’ve always said the Civil War letters prove how illiterate we’ve become, and I’ve lamented that no one writes that way anymore, but clearly I was wrong. The letters are fascinating, terrifying, maddening, illuminating, and deeply moving. I plan to keep publishing them as long as my readers keep sending them.
If you like the newsletter, please sign up (it’s free), and if you love it, you can become a paying subscriber! That gives you access to the comments section, and, eventually, it will give you access to other good stuff, although for now, I’m putting all I’ve got into the free part. That means paying subscribers, for now, are only paying because they like the newsletter and want me to be able to keep writing it—or maybe because they like me and want me to be able to pay my bills. But I’ve been so touched by that support, and so relieved that other people value what I’m doing, because I’ve never felt more useless in my life. I’ve never more keenly felt the difference between the useful jobs and the jobs that only exist because people who do useful jobs allow the rest of us to live. There’s always been a big difference between a writer and an ICU nurse, or a garbageman, or a supermarket cashier, and I’ve always known that. But in recent weeks my awareness of this has been agonising: Why the hell didn’t I learn to do something more useful? So if people like what I’m writing enough to pay for it, even though they don’t have to, it helps slightly to relieve my sense of utter inadequacy and helplessness. Actually, one of the highest points of my career, maybe the highest, came a few days ago when I learned that one of my readers is a first responder in New York City.
I started this newsletter on a lark, because my brother suggested it, and I wasn’t very disciplined about it. But now it’s my full-time job, because I can’t leave my apartment. So I’m getting very serious about it, and it’s going to get better and better as I figure out how to do it right.
If you know someone who’s just lost his job, and is in dire economic straits, please send him my newsletter. (I seem to be the last writer on earth who uses “he” as a gender-neutral pronoun and finds it far more pleasing to the ear than any alternative, and Ricochet’s probably the last place left on earth where no one will object to it.) Free things are good at times like this. And forward it to all of your friends, including the ones who are still employed.
If you’re a healthcare worker, first responder, grain export inspector, or anyone else who’s now doing the difficult, dangerous work of keeping our civilization from collapsing, I’ll send you a gift subscription, which will give you access to a couple of boutique features, like the comments section. I guess you probably wouldn’t have time to use that. But I still want to give you a gift subscription–just on general principles.
I try to say at least one really interesting thing every time I send it out. So come on over and sign up—I’ll be waiting for you.Published in