Does it go without saying that during times of crisis, and certainly, though not only during those of a pandemic nature we need the arts more than ever?
That art offers a salve for our fears, the chance to escape and sometimes a means for making sense of what's happening around us?
I didn't read East Pittsburgh Downlow because of COVID-19 or any kind of social distancing (though I wholly embrace that). Nor was I looking for answers to anything in particular when it landed on my doorstep (and that's primarily meant metaphorically, I live in a high-rise, and nothing but the occasional drunk and newspapers land on my doorstep).
I read it because I love Dave Newman's work (and I love Dave Newman, and do listen to his recent appearance on this This Podcast Will Change Your Life for more fanboy love and the like) and will unabashedly read anything he writes.
Newman speaks to the people we don't see enough on the page, blue collar men and women, left behind by the prosperity being made by the few, struggling to get ahead, and stay above water, as they struggle with basic day-day decisions such as which bills to pay first.
They drink too much and have sex and go to work.
These people will also be those who suffer most during a time like we find ourselves in, which is not a political statement, though it could be, because they will not be able to go to work, but not be able to work from hom, they have only saved so much, if anything, and generational wealth is not a thing for them.
I've never pretended I grew-up this way, nor am I exactly there now, I've been privileged and remain privileged, even as I know I won't do as well as my parents eventually did, and am slowly falling behind whatever progress I was once making.
That can still change for me, and might, but even if it doesn't, I'm working to embrace it as Newman's characters are also trying to do, because they're always thinking about bills and work and how much we all need some luck.
But they also find light and joy in love and running and dive bars and pizza and this I do know well.
I also know that Dave Newman doesn't necessarily seem to be interested in success as we sometimes think about it, well as I do anyway, or maybe he is, but doesn't feel like chasing it, better understanding than I did in the past how hard it is, and how much effort and luck it takes to maybe achieve it.
Of course, that's speculation or projection or something.
I can't say.
I can say that I love him and his writing and that for me he is one of America's truest voices, greatly underappreciated, and far too unknown, for what he does and shares with us.
And maybe that's okay, I know he seems to be okay with it.
But that is also why I try to bring attention to those voices we may not know or who deserve the opportunity to rise above the clutter, if even only briefly.
Which brings me back to this pandemic, reading and making money.
Reading itself is a necessity right now, but so is supporting artists whose livelihoods depend on their art, as well as authors and publishers who can't properly promote their work during a time when everything non-pandemic, work and family, is being cancelled and ignored.
Let's all support the artists we know and love, as well as those we don't know, and if you don't know who to support, let me know, I'll be happy to share my thoughts, though with this post as a self-prompt, I plan to share them anyway.
Also, if you're a writer or publisher and want me to promote anything at all across my social media platforms and/or if you're a bookstore, writing center or literary outlet who needs me to lend a voice to anything you're trying to do right now to stay above water yourself, please let me know, I'm happy to help.
Otherwise, will East Pittsburgh Downlow change your life? Of course it will. It's the Dave Newman. And it's art.