Driving home from work the other day, I came up over the hill and down into the happy valley of the Neversink, a sight I always love. I found myself staring as I drove at the green fields zipping past. The Mr. Mister song “Broken Wings” came on the radio, with its simple atmospheric bass line which to the ancient peoples of the 1980s – and still to me – signified deep pensive profundity. I saw a couple of rabbits seemingly playing in a field – it was hard to tell what they were doing, I was going thirty-five miles an hour, they were leaping into the air, like in some promo video for the cuteness of bunnies. When I looked back at the road, a car was coming right at me, and no wonder: I had drifted onto the left side of the road. I swerved just in time, and thereby saved myself from what surely would have been one of the stupidest deaths imaginable.
But while I am discussing stupid deaths, I will mention the greatest stupid literary death of all time, that of Aeschylus, who fought at Marathon and wrote the Oresteia, the greatest literary monument of the ancient world and one of the five best of all time, famed for his thunderous language of unutterable complexity, so that when he died Dionysus is said to have asked the Athenians to fetch Aeschylus from Hades so the god would have some good tragedies at his festival; supposedly an eagle saw his great bald head, and thinking it a rock, dropped a tortoise on it, killing the poet. It is not recorded – oh the mindless folly of mortals – what happened to the tortoise.