Massive loss that left so many feeling helpless, fragile and unmoored. The ongoing fight for equity. A catch-all anxiety tied to the simple passing of time. Moments of true rest were few and far between this past year. But there were moments.
These days have begun to feel elastic: even the most banal social practice upended, oceans of time in front of us that feel by and large destined to be filled by anxiety. Oh, the new normal. The importance of maintaining routine are stressed upon us, the vague semblance of normality holding us together with tape and string. I myself never thought I could abide shoes in the house but am now cheered by the simple act of lacing them each morning, even if only to tread the same exact square footage as yesterday.
In 1994, in a southern Baptist household on a dead-end street of nine houses, I felt one way and one way only: alone. Where I grew up, queer was a crime. If you were lucky you were ignored and if your luck ran out, you were punished. It felt like the only option was to keep your head down and mouth shut. I was fifteen years old and knew exactly who I was but struggled to articulate my identity.
In 2012 the New York Times Sunday Book Review published a very negative (and very hilarious) front-page evisceration of two works by a young, largely unknown fiction writer. The review sparked much debate and launched a thousand tweets about what a book review can or should do. Condemned for being "mean", a descriptor that I personally feel criticism should never pay heed nor extend an ounce of patience, William Giraldi's scathing summation of a novel and collection of stories by Alix Ohlin ruffled many feathers, albeit almost entirely of the twee, "lives in Brooklyn" variety.
"I'll need a ton of things if you want me to do this right."
Mary Robison, Oh!