Created by Matt Zoller Seitz
Directed by Judith Carter
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
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An extraordinary illustrated chronicle of 2020 that captures this indelible year in America in all its tragic, surreal, epic, and (sometimes) comedic intensity
Artist Elise Engler set herself a task five years ago: to illustrate the first headline she heard on her bedside radio every morning. The idea was to create a pictorial record of one year of listening to the news. But when Donald Trump was elected, the headlines turned too wild for her to stop the experiment.
Then 2020 happened. Was there ever such a year? Headlines about the death of Kobe Bryant and Donald Trump's impeachment began to give way to news of a mysterious virus in China, and Engler’s pages were quickly filled with the march of COVID-19: schools closing their doors, hospitals overflowing, graveyards full to capacity. Day by day, Engler drew every shocking turn of the year: the police murder of George Floyd and protests around the globe; a war against science and those who preached it; fires consuming California; a vicious election, absurdly contested. Other stories appeared, too: “Harvey Weinstein Sentenced,” “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized,” “China Extends Control over Hong Kong,” and―on repeat―“Stock Market Plunges.”
The result is a powerful visual record of an unprecedented time, collected in A Diary of the Plague Year, which follows the headlines from the first appearance of the coronavirus to the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Made in real time, Engler’s vibrant, immediate images recapture what it was like to live through 2020, bringing texture, feeling, and even charm to what we might not remember and what we will never forget.
Elise Engler is a visual artist who has shown in galleries across the United States and Europe. A Diary of the Plague Year is her first book. The recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in drawing and an Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation grant in painting, Engler has also received two MacDowell residencies and a fellowship at Civitella Ranieri in Umbria, Italy. Her work has been written about in Art in America, the New Yorker, and the New York Times, among other publications. Engler teaches at City College, City University of New York, and the School of Visual Arts and for the Battery Park City Authority. She lives in New York.
"A Diary of the Plague Year joins a shelf that’s sure to be crowded with reflections on one of the most tumultuous years in a century. Engler’s work will almost certainly stand alone in its effect, though, with its blend of gravitas and levity . . . of our darkest moments rendered with the whimsical sublimity you can only find in the illustrator’s hand."―Virginia Quarterly Review
"Inviting and salient . . . We can rely on A Diary of the Plague Year―the book reminds us that the human spirit is undaunted. That is why we remain, here to fight another day."―BookTrib
"In electric, dynamic painting, and distinctive handwritten text, this diary is animated by Engler’s creative, associative mind . . . Engler captures the urgency of the summer’s protests . . . and her portraits of players in the national drama . . . seem at once intimate yet kaleidoscopic."―The National Book Review
MZS.Press is the online arts bookstore founded by author, critic, and filmmaker Matt Zoller Seitz and directed by Judith Carter. It offers new, used, signed, collectible, and rare books on film, TV, music, photography, and the visual arts. The store was launched in 2019 on a different platform and has expanded to incorporate arts books published by MZSPress's private imprint: titles currently include Seitz's The Deadwood Bible: A Lie Agreed Upon and Dreams of Deadwood, about the HBO Western, and Walter Chaw's A Walter Hill Film.
Our deepest wish is to promote, encourage, and distribute work by small presses, academic presses, and individuals. Extraordinary work tends to get swallowed up on giant platforms like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The store's inventory of nearly 1000 volumes is currently in the process of being reconstructed after its relocation from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Dallas, Texas. The titles featured here are personally selected by a group of curators and advisors, including Seitz, Carter, and an array of critics, artists, journalists, educators, publishers, and arts mavens who are known for their ability to suss out what Seitz's jazz musician dad liked to call "the good sh*t."
“Please. Have mercy. I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday.”
Matt Zoller Seitz
Critic, Author, Filmmaker, MZS Press Creator
Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large and film critic of RogerEbert.com; a staff writer for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. His writing on film and TV has appeared in Sight and Sound, The New York Times, Salon.com, The New Republic and Rolling Stone. Seitz is the founder and original editor of the influential film blog The House Next Door, now a part of Slant Magazine.
Seitz has written, narrated, edited or produced over a hundred hours’ worth of video essays about cinema history and style for The Museum of the Moving Image, Salon.com and Vulture, among other outlets. His five-part 2009 video essay Wes Anderson: The Substance of Style was spun off into the hardcover book The Wes Anderson Collection. This book and its follow-up, The Wes Anderson Collection: Grand Budapest Hotel were New York Times bestsellers.
Other Seitz books include the New York Times bestellers The Sopranos Sessions and Mad Men Carousel; TV (The Book), The Deadwood Bible: A Lie Agreed Upon, and the forthcoming The Wes Anderson Collection: The French Dispatch. He is also an interviewer, moderator, and film programmer who has curated and hosted film and TV presentations for the Museum of the Moving Image, IFC Center, San Francisco's Roxie Cinema, and other venues. He is currently working on a memoir about his marriages and a feature-length documentary about his father, jazz musician and composer Dave Zoller.
His hobbies include exotic dancing, moonwalking, and affixing masking tape labels to every food item in the refrigerator, including eggs. He has the attention span of a gnat.