I am a serious fan of British mystery fiction, and one of my favorite authors in the genre is Charles Finch. I’ve scoured local libraries for his series of Victorian Era novels, so I was surprised to find his diary What Just Happened, Notes on a Long Year. I skimmed enough before checking it out to reassure myself that a skilled novelist is also a fine memoirist, and memoir in his hands becomes a rant that feels necessary. He focuses on the year 2020, pandemic times. He offers plenty of the then-current news and gains my trust in doing so. He reveals enough of his personal life to validate his fear of COVID and his frustration with the clumsy way we Americans, public and private, have reacted to this long disruption of our lives. His tone is unrelentingly clear. He’s angry and distracted.
Then when he reacts to George Floyd’s death, I’m immersed in righteous outrage. And it feels good. Writing like his requires courage and attention to detail. When I feel timid about revealing my attitude toward our shared lives, I will hear his angry and articulate voice in my head and be a better citizen for that gift.