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What Just Happened

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I am a Charles Finch fan! I have read his entire backlog and have loved every one of them.

What Just Happened is basically Finch's journal, notes, diary, etc of his 2020 experience. I fell in love with his writing all over again and got a peak into his humor.

I did only make it through about half way through the book. The format and data in the book is something I've already lived through and did not care to relive.

This would be awesome to have to look back on 5, 10, 20 years in the future.
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A poignant review of a year many of us would like to forget. I'm not sure I was in the right headspace for this story, especially given my career. That's not to say I didn't like it - just that I might try it again when I'm a little further removed. So...2030?
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I really loved this. It was so moving, sharply observed, and astute. The book also manages to be funny in places, in the best way.
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WHAT JUST HAPPENED by Charles Finch contains his "Notes on a Long Year," one that none of us will easily forget. At the request of The Los Angeles Times, Finch kept a day-to-day journal and this is the edited version of that account. "Life is simple: 'Don’t go anywhere and be afraid.'" He begins in March 2020 and continues through the lockdowns and scarcities, through the summer and George Floyd's murder, through the January 6th Insurrection. It's a personal, rather cynical and by necessity self-centered story (weren't we all in our own bubbles?) while also being a universal tale of an incredible time. Finch is a gifted writer who evokes emotions – grief, anger, fear, and hope – for his readers. Interested researchers should also look for other texts on the pandemic in our collection, including Uncontrolled Spread and World War C.
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WOW!! 

First,  I had no idea that the author was NOT BRITISH [I have NO idea why I thought that, but I was sure he was!!]!!! LOL I went into the audiobook thinking I'd have a lovely listen with a lovely British accent and then he started speaking and I initially wondered if I had gotten the narrator wrong! LOL Thankfully, the author has a lovely speaking voice and narrates his book fantastically [as we all know, this is not always the case] and not once did I wish he was British after the book found its rhythm. 

And what a book it is - whew. It was tough at times to listen to the past that isn't really the past [in the sense of it being a very long time ago] but feels like it was 100 years ago and not just last year and this year. As we continue to sit in this global pandemic and people choose to ignore the continued warnings that this mess is NOT OVER, the review at times was overwhelming. Things I had totally forgotten. People we lost [RBG!!!!]. January 6th. The continued belief by many that the election was stolen. All of this and more is what the author has written about, and how all of this has affected him and his own health challenges, and I have to admit, it was really good to listen to someone else talk about the struggles they had [and I am assuming they still are dealing with] and the open honesty about the farce that was the previous Presidential administration - SO many things he said were things I had thought to myself but never said out loud. It was glorious to hear someone I like and respect say them out loud [the bestie and I have been for months of course, but when your circle is teeny-tiny, it is really fantastic to hear someone else say them as well]. It was such a relief to really realize that we all who think the same are not alone in that belief. 

This is a tough book at times - revisiting some of those scary early days of the pandemic really brought up some anxiety for me, but it was also cathartic; I feel like I can still go on. There are people who care and are fighting for good to prevail, there is hope. Heaven knows, we still need hope. So grateful for the openness and transparency of the author - he does not shrink away from any of his thoughts, no matter how crazy they might have sounded and that was also refreshing. Really, this is a great [though tough] read from beginning to end - though the moments of hilarity  will get you through, much like we had to adapt to the "new normal" we all face, with hope and laughter and grace. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Charles Finch and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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What Just Happened by Charles Finch is a memoir of sorts, a diary kept during the worst of the pandemic. Charlie is a wonderful writer, his prose is elegant and communicative. There are obvious threads running through the books: panic, boredom, depression. The thing I most disliked about the book is the blatant hatred of Trump, and more importantly, all things conservative. That Charlie is a liberal is no surprise. That he is not more even-handed, is. It was a disappointment to me. Will it stop me from reading his work? No. "Can we stagger into Joe Biden's arms and recover?" Well, that hasn't happened, has it? Too often Charlie followed the media, rather than thinking things through. He quotes the Washington Post, for crying out loud. "Hate is a bottomless cup; I will pour and pour (Medea by Euripedes). 

I was invited to read a free e-ARC of What Just Happened by Alfred A Knopf, through Netgalley All thoughts and opinions are mine. #netgalley #alfredaknopf #whatjusthappened #charlesfinch
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“North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, who dies about three or four times a year, may be dead again, according to Reuters”, reads an entry made in the month of August 2020 in Charles Finch’s part polemical and part philosophical ruminations, constituting his upcoming book. “What Just Happened” is a poignant yet scathing account of the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, as viewed from the perspective of an author and a critic living in the United States, one of the most severely affected countries, courtesy COVID. 

Incessantly smoking pot and lampooning a “doofus” administration headed by Donald Trump, in an irreverent vein, American author and literary critic, Charles Finch’s “What Just Happened” is a miscegenation of Marta Gepe’s “Quarantine Diaries” and “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole. Juxtaposing anxiety and anger, Finch illustrates the floundering state of affairs in America as an intransigent Government refused to acknowledge both the import and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finch conveys to his readers a cathartic state of mind that racks and ravages him – a state of mind that also traumatized millions of his fellow citizens, physically and mentally – during the entire twelve months in the year 2020. 

Converging at regular intervals on the video platform Zoom (social distancing and other Standard Operating Procedures putting paid to any hopes of face-to-face interactions), Finch deliberates, deplores and dwells on a whole range of topics with his closest friends. Nathan is an indefatigably overworked, yet optimistic doctor who keeps feeding the group the latest advances and setbacks in medicine’s fight against the virus. Wulf, of Austrian accent, and an eternally bright screenwriter posits that he is impermeable to the advances of the pandemic, while Rachel provides a ringside view of juggling with children attending classes online while their parents struggle to adopt and adapt to the new norms of working from home. 

When not meditatively engaging his buddies, Finch finds tremendous solace in the power of music. The passages detailing the musical preferences of Finch and the circumstances that led to those choices form the apotheosis of the book, in my personal opinion. The words transcend meaning, assume proportions of dizzying beatitude and take on a remarkable relevance both contextually and aurally. For example, Finch’s incorrigible obsession with the Beatles has at its core, an inconvenient (medically) childhood with insufficient means and an incredibly musical minded Uncle expatiating about every exploit of the Beatles, both professional and personal. Finch’s absorption with music results in an  eclectic mix of partialities. From an almost aleatory melody of The Doors to the paradigm altering rock of Led Zeppelin and much more in between, Finch’s collection of music is for the refined and the rustic alike. Even though it is  Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift, at whose altar the maximum benedictions are offered by Finch – in fact Finch himself is pleasantly surprised to learn that Spotify bands him in the category of the top listeners who are inextricably possessed by a Taylor Swift fervour – he also allows himself to be transported into the soothing, lyrical and rhythmical world of American Blues, popularized initially by the likes of Bessie Smith. In fact, Finch devotes appreciable space to chronicling the contribution made by African Americans to the world of Blues and Jazz.

The year 2020 also saw the prolific permeation of many seminal public movements such as Black Lives Matter. The brutal and inhuman killing of George Floyd, when Derek Chauvin, a police officer pressed down his knee on the throat of a struggling, suffocating and squealing Floyd for an interminably long period of eight minutes forty six seconds sent shock waves amongst outraged populace not just in the United States but across a chagrined world. Displaying solidarity, people staged marches in various countries. In the United States a few protests turned violent with protestors clashing with the police. Finch reflects on the alarming state of affairs by sitting on the lawn of his friend Wulf (restrictions on shelter at home being removed) and watching a procession of fire trucks racing along with alarms blaring, while a few helicopters swirl above reconnoitering, with their rotor blades reverberating. 

Finch reserves his most pungent diatribes however for a select few in the Trump administration. Rand Paul, in addition to being the ‘tiniest’ Senator of Kentucky is also a ‘cosseted princeling’ plying his wares solely in the shadows of his more famous father; the postmaster general Louis DeJoy is a man ‘whose head looks like reconstituted pig parts were molded into a crude ovoid respiration tank, then installed with the eyes from the dumbest dog-species and hi-tech, blindingly white porcelain teeth’. When Trump himself is afflicted with the COVID-19 virus, after flouting every possible Standard Operating Procedure, Finch engages in a quasi- soliloquy on the value (or a lack of it) of Trump surviving the virus. 

The most arresting part of the book interestingly involves books. Finch during the course of his reveries and reflections, takes recourse to anecdotes and quotes forming part of various books. These provide the reader with not just an insight into the prolific reading habits of the author, but also the very heterogenous nature of the books themselves. Historian Leon Litwack’s ‘crushing magisterial book’, Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow leads Finch, and his readers, back in time – even before the defiance of Rosa Parks – to a woman named Pauli Murray. When she was just a child, Murray witnessed the murdered body of a man named John Henry Corniggin, “lying out in the field, where he had been shot to death”. Corniggin’s folly: walking across a white man’s watermelon patch. Murray went on to become an activist extraordinaire and a highly successful academic and now has a school in Yale University named after her. Similarly the pathbreaking book by anthropologist and structuralist Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques is discussed in an elegantly poignant manner. 


Finch ends his book (by which time Joe Biden has successfully wrested the US Presidency out the hands of the irascible Donald Trump), with a stirring homage to his late grandmother and one of the pioneers in the art of Minimalism, Anne Truitt. 

Hoping that Finch continues to write with a fervour that is undiminished. But here’s also wishing that he kicks the undesirable habit of continually puffing pot and subjecting himself o racking and wheezy bouts of painful coughs!

(What Just Happened: Notes on a Long Year by Charles Finch is published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, and will be on sale beginning 9th of November 2021)

Thank You Net Galley for the Advance Reviewer Copy
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Thank you to NetGalley and Alfred A. Knopf for an e-copy of What Just Happened by Charles Finch in exchange for an honest review.

Finch wrote What Just Happened with wit, humor, and honesty while accounting for the year that was 2020. He truly bears his soul in this diary, and I appreciate the openness he displays by sharing his innermost thoughts and opinions.  However, I  failed to connect to this collection of daily observations in the ways I hoped, as my daily experience was vastly different. I also don't think that I was ready to relive the year that was 2020. Years from now, I may be able to better appreciate the commentary without continually feeling like my nerves are rubbed raw, but not quite yet.
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When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Charles Finch was asked by the Los Angeles Times to start a diary to record the events unfolding across the globe as well as his emotional reactions to these events. Especially as an Angelino with so much shared experiences as Finch, I thought this would be a hard read for me to revisit all of the trauma that has occurred over the past year and a half, but I found myself totally engaged in this novel, in awe of everything we have lived through. Finch begins the book with our initial lockdown and then watches as the world shuts down. He recalls Italy, the first country to experience a devastating surge and recounts how it was predicted that 20,000 people might even die in America. (Ironically, that number is currently at 746,000 and climbing.) We were simultaneously naïve and terrified those first few months and I found it very therapeutic to read about all that we’ve gone through with a keen eye. While this is Finch’s experience, it’s also a collective history. If you’re ready to remember what many of us are trying hard to forget, then this book is definitely worth your time. Thank you to Knopf Doubleday and to NetGalley for the advanced review copy.
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Thank you NetGalley and Knopf for a copy of What Just Happened. I must admit, as someone who has been dealing with anxiety and insomnia due to Covid, I questioned my decision to read this book but I am glad I did. I found it a very enjoyable read that is so much more than just a diary of the pandemic. It's a comfortable conversation with your friend who describes what the year was like for them. But conversations between friends is never about just one subject. Like many great conversations, you reveal and you learn new things. Some subjects Charles Finch wrote about range from music, George Floyd, the protests and Black history, books read and to be written, the election, stories of beloved relatives who have passed and beloved family and friends in the present. Finch wrote a book with seriousness and humour, compassion and anger, despair and hope. It is a great read that I believe could help you process a once in a lifetime event.
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This book was well written and very descriptive. It was a difficult read due to the subject matter. At times it felt long but that was also more due to reliving a year of Covid-19 than the actual book itself. I'm not sure I was ready for this book. It is definitely an important read but I wonder if it is the kind of book that "preaches" to the choir.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Knopf for the ebook. This modern day Diary of a Plague Year starts just as covid is starting to accumulate more and more cases and a nationwide shutdown is being proposed and goes all the way to Biden’s inauguration. Our author lives in Los Angeles and emails and Zooms with a group of close friends, including a doctor working in the covid frontlines of a NYC hospital, as covid runs rampant, Trump makes mistakes at every turn, racial protests break out worldwide with the killing of George Floyd, the Presidential race heats up and so much more. You wouldn’t imagine you’d be ready to relive such a recently grim past, but the author takes you along on a tour of his thoughts as all this is happening, with his outrage and generous humor as he leans on his family, friends, Kacey Musgraves, nightly walks and almost as frequent pot smoking.
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This book encapsulates how I felt at the beginning of the pandemic but it went off the rails a few times. Even still, it feels like an oddly accurate historical gem. The type of thing that will be read like Samuel Pepys’ account of the fires a hundred years from now.
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2020. What a year. I am thankful that I survived, bodily and mentally. Why would I want to revisit it? After all, it JUST happened.

Crazy me, I did revisit it–with Charles Finch in his memoir What Just Happened: Notes on a Long Year. Finch’s notes hit all the headline news, Covid-related, political and social. Condensed, so you can’t help but notice that it was truly one damned thing after another. If we have PTSD, or anxiety, or burn-out, or are reduced to simmering or explosive rage, there is a reason for it.

Finch talks about how he coped with comforting music and weed, how day after day he was just stuck, how everything seemed so hard.

Reading this made me realize how universal our experiences were. March 11, 2020, I had an appointment. Then, Michigan went into lockdown. We drove the car around so the battery didn’t die. We drove to our son’s house and stood outside the picture window and waved and left goodies on the porch. I remember Sundays with no traffic anywhere–in Michigan, when usually thousands are coming home from Up North cabins on Sundays.

We ordered delivery groceries and cleaned everything then washed out hands and arms. On our walks, when we met people we made wide arcs around each other, nodding heads. We were scared of each other.

Finch writes about empty store shelves and the joy of getting a shipment of pasta. He writes about Zooming, online group reads, the television shows everyone watched, and most of all, “the boredom and terror” of lockdown.

Finch shares the story of his personal health crisis as a kid, and his dependence on medical treatment, the fear when DeJoy decided to slow down the Post Office to interfere with mail-in ballots, worried about getting his refill. He talks about the weaknesses of American health care, the brutal implications of government spending on war that could go to education and programs to benefit people. How conservatives thought it a good thing that mostly ‘old’ people died from Covid.

With a subtle humor, and great humanity, Finch recalls 2020 in all its boredom and fear, the grim, human toll, the frightening political circus, the uplifting Women’s March and the protests for Black Lives Matter.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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This is a pandemic diary, and yes, it has been a long year. Charles Finch writes about the pandemic month by month, from the beginning, and his feelings-fear and despair, but also, hope. He also details the politics involved, the election, the insurrection, and the murder of George Floyd. Part of the book deals with slavery and the Black Lives Matter movement. He gives some personal observations on many aspects we have all lived through and with - the bravery of medical workers, the overwhelming numbers of those who passed away from covid, and how we all missed getting together! And, of course, the shortages of food and supplies. It is not always an easy read, because, it has been and still is, such a difficult time for all of us. Charles Finch is one of my favorite authors, so I also enjoyed the personal history he shared. And he loves the Beatles! I did receive a complimentary copy through Netgalley, and I am glad I did!
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Reading Charles Finch’s pandemic diary brought right back to the beginning of our lockdown.We both live in California and I can still feel the panic the stocking up on food and other products as though we would never be in a store again.The author writes so well shares with us his experience his feelings emotions  humorous real.This Will have a spot in this new genera pandemic diary’s very well written interesting.#netgalley #knopfdoubleday.
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I suspect we'll be  reading many pandemic diaries in the years to come. While reading this one, I had to keep reminding me how fresh this all still is. Doesn't it seem like forever ago that RBG died? That aside, Finch is a great writer and he put a lot of himself into this diary; a lot of honesty and soul-bearing. That can be overwhelming for a reader, but he's struck just the right balance with the humorous writing he's so adept with. 
The pandemic is far from over as I type this. In fact, we may not even be half way through it, or we may never be through it. So, is this book premature? I have no answer to that questions but I admit to wanting to read more.
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