cover image The Quarantine of St. Sebastian House

The Quarantine of St. Sebastian House

John Pistelli. John Pistelli, $9.99 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-73507-690-4

A pandemic-related lockdown tests the residents of an apartment building in this nicely considered outing from Pistelli (The Ecstasy of Michaela). In the early days of a “novel virus” pandemic, the unnamed narrator, a 25-year-old philosophy graduate student, ignores calls from his father and teaches a course online, trading in a classroom for a “desultory and sparsely-attended message board.” His neighbor, retired professor Denise, knocks on his door and encourages him to get to know the others in the building. He ventures out, meeting Justin Appleton, the slovenly projectionist at an independent cinema; Louise Portofino, a sculptor working on a large commission; and Arthur Brand, an emaciated, frenetic, and aggressive man trying to undermine social order. These encounters spark philosophical discourses as the tenants struggle to cope (Arthur, in a lengthy preamble to his own “theory” about “oppression [and] poverty,” dismisses Marx as “another boy bargaining with God in the night”). Louise invites them all to her apartment to unveil her works destined for a utopian hospital, while another neighbor takes to spitting on doorknobs to spread the virus, and the narrator and Louise make a surprising discovery about their building that sets in motion an action-packed conclusion. This thought-provoking exploration of quarantine life offers plenty of tension. (Self-published)