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.
The Explorer’s Club headquarters fill a five-story Jacobean townhouse on East 70th Street in Manhattan. The inside looks lifted from the opening scenes of an Indiana Jones movie: Wood panels, stuffed leopards snarling, mounted expedition flags, and photographs of triumphant explorers line the walls. Founded in 1904, the Club has twenty-six chapters all over the world. To become a full-fledged member, you must “carry out or assist in field science expeditions to study unknown or little known destinations or phenomena in order to gain knowledge for humankind.”
William Gibson is a magpie and a seer. His father poured concrete for the foundations of hidden military installations while he hoarded fragments of a future he hoped would scoop him from the sticks and deliver him a life worthy of his probing, greedy brain. Gibson moved to Canada to dodge the draft, became a grad student, then a writer—a cyberpunk, writing hard-boiled, media-savvy stuff that thumbed its nose at fat boring space operas starring silver-suited princelings.
TAHLEQUAH WRITER’S CLUB: Guest speaker, 11/15/2014
BUMPKINITIS 12: Guest reader, 11/21/2014
NSU VISITING WRITR SERIES: opening reader for Luc Goebel, 12/05/2014
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.
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.