Viral Dose

Folks, I hope everybody read the great article in the NYTimes on the different dosages of infection:

The importance of viral dose is being overlooked in discussions of the coronavirus. As with any other poison, viruses are usually more dangerous in larger amounts. Small initial exposures tend to lead to mild or asymptomatic infections, while larger doses can be lethal.

The article gives the most helpful, clear explanation of what happens when we leave the quarantine. It’s a very hopeful, good piece.

Messing with My Head

I went to the grocery store today, and there are very few customers. Everybody is being very responsible about social distancing. I’d even say way too paranoid and jittery for an area with zero cases.

And I’ve got to say, it’s really messing with my head to turn around and run away whenever I see another human being in a grocery aisle. And to see people turn around and run away from me.

I’m not a sensitive person. To the contrary, I’m oblivious and self-centered. But it’s still messing with my head.

Book Notes: Santiago Roncagliolo’s Red April

First off, the novel is available in English, and it’s so good! Very, very good!

What’s really embarrassing is that I keep banging on about how there are no good mysteries in Spanish, and then I stumble across two within one month. This one is by a young (he’s my age, which is infancy for a writer) Peruvian writer, but unlike Terra Alta, the first good mystery in Spanish I ever read, it’s so much more than a mystery.

Red April is set in year 2000 in Ayacucho, PerĂº. Ayacucho is the birthplace of the Shining Path, the terrorist Maoist organization that devastated Peru throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Aside from having a really great, twisty mystery, the novel explains better than any history book why these Latin American guerrillas and the military forces that fought them were so outlandishly violent.

What’s great about Hispanic writers is that they are completely unaware of political correctness. The feeling of freedom I experience when I read this literature is very addictive. There’s no tiptoeing around race, gender, or anything of the kind.

The novel talks about harsh issues and there’s a lot of violence in it. But it’s also uproariously funny in a very Peruvian way. If I had to name one thing about it that I didn’t like, it’s that the novel is very cinematographic. It feels a little too much sometimes when one scene after another is very camera-ready. But whatever, who cares. There’s so much about the quechua, and the “heart of darkness” in their culture, and the Catholicism of the Andes, the “democracy” in Peru, everything.

Great, great novel. And why not read something by a great Peruvian writer while we are in captivity anyway?

The violence is very hard-core, though. Welcome to Latin America.

Neoliberal Mentality

Neoliberal thinking is based on the idea that “it’s your fault.” Everything is the fault of an individual. Everything can be solved if an individual just tries hard enough. If something goes wrong, it’s because of an individual who didn’t do everything right.

So here’s an exercise in tracking neoliberal mentality.

If Hillary or Bernie was president right now, everything with the virus would be exactly like it is except we’d be persecuted for using the word “China” in any context but that of abject praise. Everything would be the same not because Trump is good and they are bad but because the pandemic isn’t about any single person. It isn’t about anybody’s moral character or anybody trying hard enough or making the right decisions. The pandemic is simply one of those shitty things that happen completely outside of our control.

Of course, now that I mentioned Trump nobody will notice the larger point, which is that a lot of really important things are completely outside of our control. In terms of the pandemic, you can hoard masks and ventilators but the next time it will be, whatever, a gastrointestinal thing transmitted by insect bites. Or an encephalitis-type problem. Or a nuclear explosion, or an asteroid. And immediately there will be a crowd of people infected with neoliberalism who will know exactly whom to blame.

The good news is that there’s a vaccine for this ailment. Simply say, “it just happened!” And you’ll get better.

Competitive People

As for all the competitive people in quarantine, I’m trying to work while taking care of a 4-year-old. Do you know what it takes to convince her to stay quiet and away from the camera while I conduct my student interviews every day (it’s for a language course)?

I’m happy if at the end of the day the house isn’t a complete pigsty. That’s my great achievement of the day.