You don’t have to become the president of the United States to betray your children.

Michael Chabon’s prose makes me mysteriously happy, even when I say, Surely that’s too easy; surely that’s a cliché (I exclude that ridiculous picaresque serial).

And I too have been known to make directional mistakes. Isn’t the Hudson always to the West, as it is from Riverside Drive? What do you mean, not in New Jersey?

Like everyone — I hope — I suffer from a number of delusions, many of them apparently ineradicable. There are the geographical delusions. When I am in Pittsburgh or Paris, for example, I can never prevent myself from thinking of the point where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio conjoin as facing eastward, or of the Left Bank as extending to the north of Notre-Dame. Most of my delusions of longest standing have to do (such is my legacy as a human being) with the acuity of my judgment, of my memory, and my insight into the hearts of others. But the worst and most wondrous of the delusions that plague me tend to take the form, like this idea of Normal Time, of vague but unquestioned certainties about the nature and course of my life.

Here’s an example: I am forty-five years old. By even the most conservative estimate, it has been nearly a quarter of a century since I climbed eagerly aboard this one-way rocket to Death in Adulthood and left the planet of my childhood forever in my starry wake. I know this. My grandparents, my boyhood bedroom furniture, a miniature schnauzer of admirable character named Fritz, the dazed and goofy splendor of bicentennial America: I will never see any of those or a million other things again. And yet always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind is the unshakable, even foundational knowledge — for which certainty is too conscious a term — that at some unspecified future date, by unspecified means, I will return to those people and to those locales. That I am going back.

— Michael Chabon, “Normal Time,” in Manhood for Amateurs, p. 277.


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