Still, a bit of Mardi Gras spirit has infiltrated the house along with the virus. There’s one last hunk of king cake in the kitchen (the sick person has dibs, right?), and a touch of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power) to brighten up the place.
Justice feels apropos. I served on a jury last week, which meant four days in a crowded courthouse. I masked up the whole time, but the virus must have snuck past my defenses. Or maybe it found me at the coffee shop or the gym or on the Metro. Who knows?
Jury duty equals a pain in the tuchas for many people and a genuine hardship for others. It’s not a huge sacrifice for me, with my freelance, empty-nest schedule.
Still, given the choice, I wouldn’t have opted to spend four days cooped up with a bunch of random strangers, even before COVID. To venture out in the world now, among other people, feels riskier than it used to. But it also opens up the possibility of connection, a human necessity in short supply these last few years.
I’m glad I got called up, in spite of the inconvenience and the risk. The flaws in the U.S. criminal justice system run deep, but I saw first-hand that “a jury of one’s peers” still counts for something. I’ve seen the collective spirit fail over and over again in American public life at all levels, especially in the DJT/COVID era. It felt meaningful, even inspiring, to serve as a juror alongside an eclectic group of fellow DC residents, all of whom took their civic duty seriously and tried to do it fairly. I probably wouldn’t have run across my fellow jurors in the course of our ordinary lives in this city, but it was an honor to spend a few days with them.
A win for collective bargaining: After more than three months on strike, members of the HarperCollins Union are back on the job today with a new, fairer contract. That’s good news for them—and for authors and agents and readers as well.
What I’ve been working on:
—a book review for the Washington Post that should run this week. I’ll post a link to it on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, and Facebook) when I have it.
—revising a road-trip essay I drafted last year and needed to let sit before I looked at it again. Hey, the let-it-sit strategy worked for Mark Twain. Maybe it’ll work for me.
—working on the synopsis for a novel. Though I’ve published some short stories, fiction-writing still feels like unknown territory for me in a way that nonfiction does not. Here be monsters! Still, the idea of not exploring that territory frightens me in a deathbed-regrets way. If not now, when?
What I’ve been reading:
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. “No matter how good an MMORPG was, gamers eventually did leave. They moved on to other games, other worlds, sometimes even the real one.” This novel came highly recommended, and I wasn’t disappointed. I wish that Zevin hadn’t put her characters through as many wrenching events as they endure, but as a novel about work and creativity—the story follows the complex friendship/partnership of two video game designers from childhood into their late 30s—it succeeds brilliantly.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport. Bracing! I don’t think I’m ready to commit to full-on digital minimalism—Newport can be extreme at times—but I’ve already adopted some of his strategies for being more deliberate about how, when, and why I use digital technologies. Call it social-media decluttering. I also appreciated his reminder to invest more time and attention in high-value leisure activities and interactions instead of making do with “digital cries for attention.” (I won’t take up welding, though, as one of his sources does.) Recommended—with the caveat, as a friend pointed out on my Instagram post about the book, that Newport has never used social media himself. In this case, that’s not a dealbreaker for me, but it might be for you.
Note: I borrowed this in audiobook format from the DC Public Library using the Libby app, which I also recommend if you don’t know/use it already.
All Systems Red by Martha Wells. “As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.” All Systems Red is the first installment in the Murderbot Diaries series, which I’d heard about from various friends. This short SF adventure features a rogue android in the process of finding itself, and it’s a a great read. (That’s not just the COVID fever talking.) I came across a copy in a display of AI-themed fiction at DCPL’s Northeast Branch recently and decided on a lark to read it. Glad I did. I’ve put a hold on the second installment in the series already.
Stay healthy and thanks for reading,