Virus: Good morning. I’ll be glad to take a few questions.
Reporter #1: What are you actually trying to accomplish?
Virus: Well, there’s a moment in The Possessed, the novel
by Fyodor M. Dostoevsky, when the main character —
I believe his name was Strombolini — says that since
he’s already made a mess of his life, he’ll try to make as
big a mess of it as possible. In other words, he’ll
transform destruction, or perhaps entropy is a
better word, into creation by making it intentional.
It’s a bit like something Kenneth Koch used to say
about writing poetry: if something isn’t working,
do it more.
Reporter #2: So you’re an intellectual. Have you read
Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor?:
Virus: Certainly not. But I’ve infected the University
of Chicago. Did you know that Leo Strauss, the
phlebotomist who for twenty years was the Robert
Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor
of political science at the University of Chicago, in private
conversations used to worry about the schvartzes
coming across Jackson Park? Well. he did.
Reporter #2: Don’t you mean phenomenologist
rather than phlebotomist?
Virus: Thank you. But rather than either phlebotomist
or phenomenologist, I meant to say podiatrist. What
used to be called a foot doctor.
Reporter #3: Could you please be serious for
Virus: I’ll be serious if you’ll be roebuck. It
was a wonderful store at one time. People
used to be able to order a whole house
which would arrive disassembled in a
railroad car, and then they’d put it
together themselves. There were
31,000 parts. That was going on
even at the time of the 1918 epidemic.
There simply aren’t people like that
today, as Nestor says in Homer’s Iliad,
as translated by W.H.D. Rouse.
Reporter #4: Can you please stop your
Virus: All right.
Reporter #4: What do you think of Donald Trump?
Virus: (sighs) I knew someone would ask that.
Listen, Trump is neither the hero nor the
villain of this story. What’s important is not
Trump himself, but the response to Trump
in you and you and you and you. In this
sense, Trump is like the biblical Pharaoh.
Some people hurried to leave Egypt
when Pharaoh allowed it, and some
people actually wanted to stay. Lindsey
Graham would be somebody like that.
Speaking of which, has it occurred to
anyone that the name “Lindsey Graham”
naturally suggests “Lindsey Graham Cracker,”
because Lindsey Graham would have been
a segregationist in the old days, and
“cracker” means a bigoted white person?
You see, the universe is always sending
coded messages like that, but you people
need to be aware of them and understand
them. Ahem. I myself am such a message.
Reporter #4: Oh, for Christ’s sake!
Virus: Well, I’m getting a bit weary. But
before I go, I’d like to ask you a question.
Do you think I will be Time magazine’s
Person of the Year?
Reporter #5: No, because you’re not a person.
Virus: (sighs) True — and that’s my tragedy.
I’m a bit like Satan in Paradise Lost, by
Reporter #6: Oh, for Christ’s sake!
Virus: Yes indeed. “Those who have ears,
let them hear.”