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.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+
“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?
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.
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.
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.