Cover art for podcast Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

50 EpisodesProduced by Christopher LydonWebsite

Christopher Lydon in conversation on arts, ideas and politics


Pandemic Premonitions

A year and a half into the COVID story, notice the many unknowns, and one big known. Even now, nobody can tell you absolutely whether the infectious virus might have leaked, or been leaked, from a Chinese lab in Wuhan. No one’s quite explained, broadly, why the people and governments in East Asia coped so much more effectively with COVID than Team West in Europe and the US. In the hindsight wisdom on COVID, what we do know is that nobody will write the story better than Michael Lewis, with more surprises (like George W. Bush’s foresight) and more heroes you hadn’t heard of before and now may never forget. Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball about big-league baseball, and The Big Short about the housing bubble; on the COVID crisis, he’s playing detective for the rest of us.

Marc Lipsitch, whose work gets discussed in Michael Lewis’s new book, joins the conversation this hour.

What the writer Michael Lewis delivers in book after book is not history exactly, and not hard science. It’s people, with their own ways of seeing baseball, Wall Street and now COVID. I read Michael Lewis as a nonfiction novelist of our American condition, and he’s done it again in his pandemic story, The Premonition, with his kind of characters out of the COVID cast – not Dr. Fauci and not Donald Trump, but doctors, one by one, who see through healthcare systems the way Billy Beane saw through big-league baseball, the way the short-sellers saw through the housing bubble in The Big Short. And now he gives us Charity Dean, M.D., public health doc in Santa Barbara, California, who saw herself as a dragon, at war with a pandemic that she knew was coming a week before the virus knew. Then the reflective, effective doctor and poet Richard Hatchett; then this genius of a people-watcher Carter Mecher at the V.A., the doc with dirt under his fingernails.

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