First Lines Revised for the Coronavirus Epoch

George Orwell, 1984 

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. We were still indoors and hadn’t washed our hair for seven days.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of COVID-19, it was the age of sterilization, it was the epoch of FaceTime, it was the mastering of Zoom meetings, it was the season of hoarding toilet paper, it was the season of canned vegetables, it was the spring of hand sanitizer, it was the winter of standing six feet away at all times.

Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans

Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard because he would not stay inside. “Stop!” cried the groaning old man at last, “Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree during the 1918 Flu.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the toilet paper herself.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

The president called himself a “war hero” while declaring the Coronavirus a hoax. All this happened, more or less. 

Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

He was an old man who fished alone because he didn’t like people. He had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. On the 85th day, he came home to find the only food left in the grocery store was vegan substitutes.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

She saw her profile on Bumble. It was love at first sight though it’d be several weeks, if not months before they could meet in-person due to shelter-in-place restrictions. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since: “Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Sing ‘The Happy Birthday’ song twice.” Was it really that simple?

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms 

In the late summer of that year, we lived in a very small house in an incredibly tiny village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. All I wanted to do was to escape from the family I’d been cooped up with for the past several weeks. 

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Far out in the uncharted National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the unfashionable end of the western medical arm of research lies a small, unregarded Anthony Fauci.

Andy Weir, The Martian

It’s Spring Break so I’m still going to bars and hanging at the beach during this Coronavirus epidemic. I’m pretty much fucked.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

It was not a pleasure to burn the last piece of bread I had knowing there weren’t any left at the grocery store.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. We soon learned which one we were once we were stuck inside with each other for a week.

Iain Banks, The Crow Road

It was the day my grandmother exploded. Already short on toilet paper, we grew frantic. 

Jane Austen, Pride And Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an orange man in possession of public health information, must be in want of reelection. 

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

In an apartment downtown, there lived a hermit, so he really wasn’t too affected by the shelter-in-place order.

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting on her trainer and of having no one to race against: once or twice she had signed up for a Zwift race, but it was a lot harder than she imagined, “and what is the use of a training program,” thought Alice, “without a real-life race with downhills.”

Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years Of Solitude

Many years later, as he faced a shortage of meat, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover vegetables at their local market. 

Charles R. Johnson, Middle Passage

Of all the things that drive men to hoard face masks, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is the Coronavirus.

Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche: A Romance Of The French Revolution

He was born with a gift of pathological lying and a sense that the Coronavirus was a hoax spread by the Democrats. 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground

I am a bored man…I am an unwashed man because I have nowhere to be.

Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea

The year 2020 was signalized by streaming videos, closed bars, a mysterious and inexplicable smell from 7-day-old clothes, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten. 

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“Where’s papa going with that Purell?” said Fern to her mother as they washed their hands meticulously with soap and water for at least twenty seconds.

Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast Of Champions

This is a tale of a Google Hangout of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men in a country that still wasn’t socially distancing amid the warnings from Italy.

Ken Kesey, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

They’re out there. Anti-vaxxers with face masks up before me waiting for a vaccine which they’ll surely request to receive before the rest of us.

Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Coronavirus had lasted now for ten million years – at least, that’s what it felt like after being stuck inside with my family for one week.

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day without at least a six-foot gap between the next person and I. 

S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders

When I finally stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of my apartment, I had only two things on my mind: I really had to sneeze and I was without a tissue to cover it.

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold because we had to self-isolate so now you’re sleeping in the guest room.

Yann Martel, Life Of Pi

My inability to stop touching my face left me no choice but to wear mittens every day.

J.G. Ballard, High-Rise

Later, as he sat on his balcony eating canned vegetables and Oreos he stockpiled, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the orgies that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months. There was a lot of heavy breathing and no one stayed 6 feet away.

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