Bookmarks: World in a funk, and Putin’s junk
A fortnightly look at books, writers and reviews
Would “plague” do, I wonder, as a collective noun for the rash of books about the Covid-19 pandemic coming our way? The “coronavirus genre”, if we may, is still in its infancy, but the epicentre of this publishing outbreak, to further push the envelope, is in Italy, which has been in lockdown since March 9.
Among the first titles to appear, and perhaps the most immediate response to the crisis, was Paolo Giordano’s short but influential work, How Contagion Works: Science, Awareness and Community in Times of Global Crises (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
Giordano is a physicist who is regarded as one of Italy’s most prominent writers after the success of his award-winning 2009 debut novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers (Black Swan). According to the New York Times, on February 29, a week after the number of reported Covid-19 cases began to surge in the country’s northern provinces, Giordano attended a dinner party in Rome. There, he shook no one’s hand or kissed anyone on the cheek, “a serious breach in Italian etiquette”. Then he went home and began to write a chronicle of his thoughts and anxieties about the outbreak...