The scene: a New York literary dinner some nine months ago. The topic: who I’d seen or hadn’t seen since my arrival, who I planned to see, etc. Me: ‘Well, I’ve seen X’ (‘Oh yes, how is X?’) ‘and tomorrow i’ll be seeing Y’ (‘Oh good, give my regards to Y’). ‘And on Friday, I’m having lunch with Norman Podhoretz.’ At this, the table froze. ‘You’re doing what? I repeated it, gently but with resolution, and the freeze froze even deeper. ‘But, but’ – and this with genuinely aghast reproach – ‘but, Ian, really, why?
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