Peter, one of the most successful people I have ever known, died a drug addict, felled by a systemic bacterial infection common to intravenous users.
Of all the heartbreaking details of his story, the one that continues to haunt me is this: The history on his cellphone shows the last call he ever made was for work. Peter, vomiting, unable to sit up, slipping in and out of consciousness, had managed, somehow, to dial into a conference call.
Science is a messy business, but just like everything with loose ends and ragged edges, we tend to understand it by resorting to ideal types. On the one hand, there’s the archetype of the scientific method: a means of accounting for observations, generating precise, testable predictions, and yielding new discoveries about the natural consequences of natural laws. On the other, there’s our ever-replenishing font of story archetypes: the accidental event that results in a sudden clarifying insight; the hero who pursues the truth in the face of resistance or even danger; the surprising fact that challenges the dominant theory and brings it toppling to the ground.
The interplay of these archetypes has produced a spirited, long-running controversy about the nature and origins of language. Recently, it’s been flung back into public awareness following the publication of Tom Wolfe’s book The Kingdom of Speech (2016).
Luckily, Gràcia remembered that other divers had talked of an air pocket in a chamber nearby. He tugged Mascaró to it, and there they talked through their options.
Both knew they only had enough air for one of them to make it out.
"We decided I would stay and Guillem would go for help. He was skinnier than me and needed less air for breathing. I was also more experienced at breathing cave air, which has higher carbon dioxide levels," Gràcia says.
The first word or two of a poem is such a small thing, one word out of many, but in a poem every single word can hold the weight of the entire piece. What about poems that begin with a specific subject for their first word—I, You, She, He, They, a person’s name? Does having a set character at the center of a poem shape the way we read it?
Haig has been gifted with a rare ability, which is to make the far-fetched – and even ridiculous – seem believable. His books tickle your mind and tug on your heart, and their pages slip by with beguiling ease.