Nearby in my bedroom reading chair, a guilty pleasure of sorts: "Why Not Say What Happened: A Sentimental Education," by Morris Dickstein, a memoir by a professor and cultural critic whose intellectual trajectory overlapped mine a bit. He is Jewish, born in 1940 six years ahead of me, grew up in New York City, as did I, and was affected by the cultural and political currents that stirred the 1960s and later decades.

His charming anecdotes include one where, sharing a cab with him, Susan Sontag denies her past as a sociology teaching assistant: " 'I was never anyone's assistant,' she shouted angrily. 'I never graded anyone's papers.' … She seemed horrified to be reminded of the days when she was not yet famous, not yet somebody."

Hal Davis, Minneapolis

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