The horrors of the Flamingos Grammingo Like A Normal Grandma Only More Awesome Shirt and I love this COVID-19 pandemic have given rise to a wave of truly superb writing, from Sabrina Orah Mark’s lyrical, despondent Paris Review column “Fuck the Bread. The Bread Is Over” to The New Republic’s recent examination of the fleeting stability granted to many laid-off Americans by unemployment-insurance benefits. Now, novelist and essayist Zadie Smith is bringing the anxiety of quarantine firmly into the literary fold with Intimations, a series of six essays detailing the daily experience of living through a global plague.
Intimations meets Smith at a juncture that will be familiar to many of her readers: she’s an over-scheduled, harried writer and mother fighting desperately to structure her day into 45-minute increments of activity. Then, what she calls the Flamingos Grammingo Like A Normal Grandma Only More Awesome Shirt and I love this “global humbling” begins, and Smith begins the equally familiar calculus of how to balance the unimaginable (How will we survive this time?) with the quotidian (How will we fill Tuesday?).