PRINT January 1988


I GREW UP HAUNTED BY BANALITY. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it meant: to be banal was to live in the suburbs; to carry the attaché and wear the necktie of conformity; to meet the 5:15, inhabit the bar car, and, when the conductor called out “Plasticville,” to be whisked past premeditated lawns to a split-level ranch; then into slippers and a pipe, and a night before the Dumont with the wife and kids. It was to dive dutifully into her crinolines as the moon set and to sip the coffee she had dutifully risen with the sun to brew; to die young of a punishing heart attack, and to realize, in those final moments, that I had never . . . really . . . lived.

For all I've done to escape that fate, to free myself from the tyranny of role, to be unique, I have only managed to avoid being typical. Steeped in selfhood, I am just as vulnerable to mediocre living and even more vulnerable to

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