Magazine September 21, 2020, Issue

How to Think about Existential Threats

(Mike Hutchings/Reuters)
The Unreality of Memory: And Other Essays, by Elisa Gabbert (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 pp., $16)

The outbreak of the pandemic, so the denizens of literary Twitter never tired of reminding us, was a terrible time to have a book coming out. In part the problem was a dearth of attention. People who should have been reading more than ever were too busy refreshing tallies of the death count, staring helplessly at the ceiling, and cutting into the wine ration. Then there was the unspoken imperative to “read the room.” The specter of mass death had rendered most subjects and stories trivial. To promote one’s new book under these circumstances was selfish and tasteless. Reading itself,

This article appears as “Crushed by Anxiety” in the September 21, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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