What Just Happened: Notes on a Long Year (2021) by Charles Finch
"What Just Happened" is, I think, a legitimate question from anyone who made it through that horrific last year of 45's presidency. From the pandemic and all it entailed to watching a black man killed by police right there in front of us to a sitting president encouraging his base to go "protest" a legitimate election with the resulting coup attempt--so much of what happened is enough to make me wonder if we all haven't just been living in a very bad dream. A bad dream that we don't, even now, seem to be able to awaken from. Covid-19 goes on. Perhaps not as deadly as it was at its worst, but people are sill dying. People still have long-Covid, the lingering symptoms that just won't go away. Inflation is at an all-time high because the greedy corporations and millionaires & billionaires who somehow managed to keep making all-time high profits during the pandemic haven't had enough and are still raising prices--only now they get to blame it on the war in Ukraine. And so it goes. [A phrase used often by Finch in an echo of Vonnegut.]
Sorry...didn't mean to turn my review into a rant...but there it is. And I'm not changing a word.
Charles Finch is such a gifted writer. It was both harrowing and cathartic to read his diary and relive and remember how very stressful and scary and just plain awful it was. To repeatedly come across phrases that represent exactly what I felt/thought/said at precisely those moments. To see confirmation that I wasn't the only one who felt the disconnect and who didn't want to work (how could I work when so many were dying needlessly; when I might be next or my loved ones might be next). But he also injects just the right amount of humor to keep us from getting mired in the horrific, to keep us on an even keel. And to even show us a bit of hope.
I appreciated most the absolute honesty of the work. He gives us everything--his fears, his anger, even his craziest thoughts. It is an open, authentic view of what he experienced during what is arguably one of the worst years our country has faced in a very long time. Thank you, Charles Finch, for all of it. ★★★★★
First line: March 11 There is an emotional chill in the streets today for the first time.
Last line: And so the days glide forward, into a future we have to hope other people haven't already made for us.