When my editors decades ago changed the name of this column and pulled its author out of anonymity, they asked me to use the word “I” freely, to commit myself, to get personal. For most column writers, however, “personal” is an obliquely applied concept. Their “I” is a kind of Doppelgänger, a persona behind whom the writer can hide.

The late Robert McAfee Brown once told me he had spotted the Marty he knew only a couple of times in M.E.M.O, notably in columns I wrote during the illness and after the loss of my wife, Elsa, 20 years ago exactly. I’m not sure which “I” is speaking in this column, but I’d like to think that what it says is transferable to the experience of others in these times of travail.


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