It looked like it was going to be an ordinary spring when we commissioned the reviews in this issue. After the pandemic made the season not ordinary at all, we asked Margaret Betz to write about a book many are turning to for philosophical insight — The Plague, by Albert Camus. Published in 1948, The Plague really is the novel of the moment, as she explains. It’s full of sentences that sound like they were written today: “The plague forced inactivity on them, limiting their movements to the same dull round.” Indeed, at least if “they” are inessential workers. Jean Kazez also addresses the pandemic, asking whether, in general, philosophy helps us think about it. Short version of her answer: yes.
Actually, our “before times” commissions weren’t entirely business as usual either. Ken Daley reviews Susan Schneider’s book Artificial You. One of Schneider’s questions is whether mind enhancements will improve us or replace us with different people. That’s not so far from the question Jennifer Morton asks in Moving Up without Losing your Way — about what happens when working class people achieve upward mobility through education. Helen DeCruz, our reviewer, takes a personal interest in Morton’s questions about identity and authenticity. Finally, and on a different note, Eric Mullis writes about Adornments, Stephen Davies book about body art. The subtitle asks the central question: What Self-Decoration Tells Us About Who We Are. In these times when we are barely even presenting ourselves to others, the importance of the way we normally self-decorate is more intriguing than ever.