#Logistics in the time of COVID


An anthropologist reflects on the logistical disruption to the publication & distribution of his daily “distraction,” comic books.
Matthew Wolf-Meyer
Photo by the author

My work is characterized by the logistics of curating its distractions. I distract myself actively, having found that writing requires a level of depersonalization, a kind of detachment from the process; reading, transcribing, sending emails, all require steady disruptions. 

Work itself needs its distractions: time with the kids, aiding in remote schooling, time cooking, time exercising. Time sleeping. Time with my partner—who doesn’t need the distraction. Maybe these are just the logistics of a consumer-capitalist, Lefebvrian everyday life—just stuck at home amid the pandemic.

It was a weird sense of panic and relief when, early in the pandemic, the logistics of publication and distribution of comic books produced by Marvel and DC was disrupted. My before-bed reading since I was 11, superhero comics (“they’re not just for kids!,” the publishers keep insisting) have been a steady companion for me, but also a monthly obligation. Suddenly, they were gone, the well dry as Canadian printers shut down due to the coronavirus. I turned to reading some novels, but because they make up part of my work life, they’re less desirable bed companions. (I keep saying one day I’ll write more about superhero comics, but, honestly, I never will for just this reason.) Thankfully, a few months later—and after finishing N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season series in the interim (too sentimental)—publication resumes and I can slip back into reading Jemisin’s Far Sector instead. But, in the interim, the disruption of a distant supply chain and the logistics that pulled together artists, writer, editors, printers, sellers, and me as a reader, revealed how caught up in a web of labor my nightly distractions really are.

The distractions are a shell within a shell, a little time travel to be had amid the seeming stasis of pandemic time. But curating distractions feels like work, and a possibility of a break, a distraction from these necessary distractions—seems so impossible…


Matthew Wolf-Meyer is the author of The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine and Modern American Life (UMN Press, 2012), Theory for the World to Come: Speculative Fiction and Apocalyptic Anthropology (UMN Press, 2019), and Unraveling: Remaking Personhood in a Neurodiverse Age (UMN Press, 2020). His research focuses on the biology of everyday life, affective approaches to subjectivity, and posthuman bioethics.