We are living a feverish moment. Politics are heated to the point of being carnivalesque. The planet is overheated and threatens to extinguish. Tempers are high, mores are in a freefall of correction. Education is on one end a riot of differentiation and individualized learning modes and on the other a gray carpet of professionalization and untenable business models. Parenting has gone from “helicoptering” to “bulldozering,” and Generation Z is still waiting for its label, blissfully unaware that according to the alphabet they are the end of the line. Currency is virtual, debt is real. Millions of people are mapping their ancestry online for fun, resulting in identity surprises and confusion of epidemic proportions; the Ukrainian side of my family has Jewish blood on its hands and in its veins. Meanwhile, the best minds in the country are figuring out how to chronically distract us with dopamine receptors, digital information, and game experiences. But video games are possibly very good for us and improve reasoning skills. A barrel of paint fell off the back of a truck on the Staten Island Expressway and now my car is half yellow spatter, which creates an optical illusion such that passersby think my tire is wobbling dangerously, on the verge of falling off. It’s a challenging time for art and literature—they move too slowly.
We chose this theme for our spring issue because we wanted to explore the most unruly boundaries of literature, the emotionally hyperreal. Overheated language and inflamed ideas; the way form tames chaos or mimics it. When I think of feverish writing, I think of Simone Weil, desperately trying to figure out God’s role in suffering in absolute ethical terms—her urgency fueled by migraines, frustration, hunger, longing, and war. Hannah Arendt, Weil’s contemporary and philosophical equal, toiled away at similar questions but had not an iota of fever in her. In his heyday, Tom Robbins was feverish and hallucinating. Virginia Woolf was never feverish, but could write fever like nobody. Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin performed feverishly. Elton John and Tina Turner perform for the feverish. Paul McCartney and James Taylor are both refrigerated in their brilliance, never hot . . .
The implied designations of this theme are more fun than video games, and yet possibly no more consequential than a colorfully suggestive adjective. What makes something feverish, or not? On a scale of feverish, how will you rate the stories and poems that follow?