How good was Ship Fever?
You guys, it is about scientists. I have always wanted to be a scientist*.
If someone had told me that she was intending to write a series of short stories about the “mysterious allure of science” (as Kakutani would have it), I would have been all “what does that even mean, are you smoking crack again?” I’d never noticed how the desire to collect and to understand—to truly, intimately know—some particular thing is so much like an enchantment. Barrett is like an alchemist: she takes these people—discoverers, explorers, scientists—and under the heat of their fallibility, their imperfect loves, and their consuming ambitions, the cold substance of scientific discovery blossoms into magic. At other times, she seems to work her spell in reverse, and science is (always imperfectly) applied to understanding the nature of human relationships. In Barrett’s world, science seems less like a field of study and more like a particular turn of mind. Something to call people who can’t stop seeking, even when they can barely understand the impulse. Even when it can only lead to ruin. I think I read somewhere that Ship Fever is about the love of science, and the science of love, and honestly, now that I’ve read the book, I can’t think of a better way of putting it.
*Statement may not be factual, true, or accurate.