A Grand Theory of Everything

What do you do if you’re a teenager, stranded by your parents in New Delhi, without any sort of adult supervision, with easy access to all sorts of strange drugs? If you’re James McGirk, you use your bad trip to develop a philosophy that explains the whole world and all of its complexities. In A Grand Theory of Everything, McGirk takes us from the winding backstreets of New Delhi to his cramped apartment in New York City, and then on to his eventual relocation with his wife to the empty plains of Oklahoma. And, most importantly, he takes us inside his own head, where his weird theories take shape to help him understand his alienation from his family, his struggles to find a career, his wife’s failing health, and all of life’s hardships. 

 

 

 

Short WIRED piece

Eyelids open; flowers blossom; tiny beaks tap cracks in eggshells; crops sprout; creatures stalk, slide, and wriggle from their burrows; teenage elk scrape hooves in the dust, lower antlers, and charge their com­petition. So: Did you—yes, you, clutching your fourth Keurig of the day and still feeling sluggish—really think you were immune to the effects of circadian rhythm, aka the clock cycle of practically all living things? Please.

Satan Comes to Oklahoma City

My ailing wife, Amy, had demanded that I take her to a Black Mass, a well-publicized one that would have meant aligning myself with Satan on local television. These people aren’t really Satanists, Amy explained. They’re blue-collar subculture types who’ve grown up and know their rights and want to thumb their noses at the judgy creeps who persecuted them growing up. Amy, who had seen more than her fair share of those creeps in her own youth, wanted to lend her support.

Heavy Heart, Empty Heart

In 1963, back when it was still acceptable for poets to be openly, ferociously competitive, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s whorled Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan was still new and aesthetically suspect, the greatest poet of his day mounted the stage under Wright’s spiral ramp and inaugurated a reading series sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. Robert Lowell, a tall, elegant man of letters from an old New England family, read his own work to the crowd and then introduced a friend, “an underground poet still digging.” On cue, a stooped, heavily bearded, intoxicated man approached the lectern, and, in a peculiar, strangled voice, explained why it was proper for a trick-or-treating tot to use an expletive to curse the chairman of the First National Bank who’d dropped a polished apple into his sack and broke his cookie.

American Outlaws

Hascia, a precocious biochemistry major (class of 1966) and the last person in world you’d ever expect to smuggle drugs, was about to tie the knot and settle down. Enter Barry, an extraordinarily gifted but roguish salesman and engineer who offered her an escape: come with me to Europe and never be bored (but beware, we’ll trample a few toes in the process). Together they left New York for Berlin, then Morocco, then a remote Spanish prison – a trip that would end up being the adventure of a lifetime.