Monday, March 24, 2008

NYT Books: Neurotic Who Makes Scary World Her Banquet

Published: March 19, 2008

For a brief but intense period in 2006, Patricia Pearson logged on daily to Flu Wiki. This is a Web site ( devoted to the concerns — the very deep concerns — of people convinced that a worldwide outbreak of influenza is imminent, and that it will make the ravages of the Black Death seem like a mildly unpleasant interlude.

“Here could be found a great milling together of fiercely articulate and freaked-out people from around the world, posting to discussion topics like ‘What Will We Do With the Bodies?’ Ms. Pearson writes in “A Brief History of Anxiety.” Visitors to the site offered suggestions on how to turn back the infected, zombie-like hordes who, in a desperate search for food, will try to invade the fortified homes of the healthy.

Ms. Pearson, the author of the highly amusing “Area Woman Blows Gasket,” sees the humor in Flu Wiki, but she too worries about pandemics. A lot. She also obsesses about sudden liver failure, possibly cancerous moles, flying insects, the supervolcano underneath Yosemite National Park and the possibility that her car will blow up. All of this seems potentially hilarious, but the humor quickly freezes as Ms. Pearson describes a lifetime of absurd but crippling fears.

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