Over the course of 4 months, 97,100 metric tons of methane quietly leaked out of a single well into California’s sky. Scientists and residents are still trying to figure out just how much damage was done.
On March 12, 1978, the man Meryl Streep had been dating for nearly two years died as she sat at his hospital bed. She had met John Cazale, the crane-like character actor best known for playing Fredo Corleone in the Godfather films, when they starred together in a Shakespeare in the Park production of Measure for Measure in the summer of 1976. From the beginning, they were an unusual pair: a pellucid 27-year-old beauty just a year out of the Yale School of Drama and a 41-year-old oddball with a forehead as high as a boulder and a penchant for Cuban cigars.
But the romance was tragically short-lived. Only months after she moved into his Tribeca loft, Cazale was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. When he was cast in the Vietnam epic The Deer Hunter, Meryl joined the film, in part, just to be with him. Cazale didn’t live to see the completed work. A few weeks after he died, Meryl’s brother helped her pack up her belongings. He brought along a friend she had met once or twice—a sculptor named Don Gummer, who lived a few blocks away, in SoHo. Only weeks after losing the love of her life, she had found the second love of her life, the man who would become her husband.
Perhaps no government policy anywhere in the world affected more people in a more intimate and brutal way than China’s one-child policy. In the West, there’s a tendency to approve of it as a necessary if overzealous effort to curb China’s population growth and overcome poverty. In fact, it was unnecessary and has led to a rapid aging of China’s population that may undermine the country’s economic prospects. The scholar Wang Feng has declared the one-child policy to be China’s worst policy mistake, worse even than the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward (which led to the worst famine in world history). The one-child policy broke up families and destroyed lives on an epic scale—and although it officially ended last fall, it continues to ripple through the lives of Chinese and the 120,000 Chinese babies who were adopted in America and other Western countries.
In seven brisk chapters, he hurries us through the development of Old, Middle and Early Modern English, the increasing 17th and 18th-century concern with correct usage and standardisation, and the 19th and 20th-century heyday of language manuals, prescriptiveness and verbal snobbery. As George Bernard Shaw observed a century ago: “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him”: like most modern philologists, Horobin is keen to dispel all remnants of such dialectal prejudice.