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L. John Harris
My Little Plague Journal

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

When a global pandemic, climate catastrophe and news of social and political chaos descended upon Berkeley, California in the Spring of 2020, artist and writer L. John Harris put aside all other projects to document the painful, surreal and at times hilarious effects on his community, his home, his mind and body, and on his gustatory pleasures. Harris' Little Plague Journal captures the big story of our Covid-19 pandemic - from March of 2020 through May of 2021 - with witty texts, fanciful illustrations and intimate photographs that will both amuse and console during a dark time on planet Earth.
Artist and writer Harris (Café French: A Flâneur's Guide to the Language, Lore and Food of the Paris Café) marks the coronavirus pandemic with an eclectic collection of journal entries, art, and social media posts inspired during the time he sheltered in place in his beloved Berkeley. Candidly writing that his purpose was "a productive and pleasant way to pass the time while avoiding, to put it bluntly, death by plague,” Harris loosely bases this work on influences from Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron and notes that he wanted to “eat well, laugh, and keep a journal” while documenting the impact the pandemic had on himself and his world.

Harris shares his musings chronologically, from the spring of 2020 through 2021, and circles around four central themes: initial shock and the range of his responses to isolation, a comparison of the coronavirus pandemic with past plagues, medieval theories of disease, and Covid’s effect on our politics, with Donald Trump in the role of viral villain. Harris likens his time in isolation to an interval in a “gilded cage,” full of “endless cooking and solo eating, and the repetitive chores of a butler and staff,” and dedicates space to illuminating the impact of Covid on society. His portrayal of Berkley as a “scene out of [a] post-apocalyptic” film is particularly stark, as he details the seclusion of enjoying an outdoor, pre-takeout dinner drink at a local café, complete with “plastic cashier shields” and neighboring-table small talk about who will survive the pandemic.

Harris weaves abundant historical and cultural references into this portrait of a singular time and place framework, capturing for the future his drift of thought in a polarized era, often sounding off in heated yet familiar passages likening Trump to Hitler unlikely to persuade those who don’t agree with him politically. Nevertheless, the slim collection preserves a singular moment of rage, fear, and uncertainty.

Takeaway: A fiery collage of texts, photographs, and illustrations offering an intimate record of pandemic life.

Great for fans of: Bill Hayes’s How We Live Now, Covid Chronicles: A Comics Anthology.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B+
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B+

Jeremiah Tower, chef and author, California Dish

“No Going Back” is my subtitle to L. John Harris' must-be-read and brilliant new book of texts and toons, his little journal for this big plague. And why would we? To what unplucked day?

Susan Griffin, author, Woman and Nature, from her Foreword

If L. John Harris’ Little Plague Journal is shaped by his wildly eccentric sense of humor, this does not lessen the sense that here you will find a revealing mirror of what so many of us felt during the pandemic, separated as we were…isolated in our houses, if not stir crazy, certainly disoriented. Yet, as with the author, if one paid close attention, the mood that occupied us (indeed, some might say, held us captive) had a creative side.

Valerie Andrews, editor, Reinventing Home

A wonderfully wacky ramble through history, art, food and black humor in this distinctive memoir of sheltering-in-place. Witty, erudite, and wise, Harris’ dead-pan humor and thought-provoking visuals will make you feel so much better about your wasted year.

W. Scott Haine, author, The World of the Paris Café

L. John Harris has given us an invaluable and inimitable fusion of words and images from the heart of Berkeley. His Covid journal will be a vital primary source in the future.