Never trust a writer on the size of his audience or the sum of his royalty cheques, and so when I say that I estimate the crowd attending my lecture on Willa Cather at Roosevelt University at seventy-five, I suppose it was probably closer to forty. Whether the lecture went over or not, I am the last person to say, for all my energies went into the delivery of it, with not much left over for judging its reception. During the question and answer session afterwards, no one had any questions to offer, probably not a good sign, but that was fine with me. The $2,500 fee was decent, and my love for Willa Cather’s fiction — my subject —genuine, and so, all in all, I thought it wasn’t a bad evening’s work.
Standing at the lectern, putting my lecture notes back in my briefcase, I note a pudgy guy with a round face, rimless glasses, bald, alone, who had not left his seat in the second row.
“Excuse me, Ed, but do you have a moment?” he asks.
Ed? Do I know him? “Of course,” I reply. “What can I do for you?”
He gets to his feet and comes up to the lectern. He is short, looks to be in his middle fifties, is wearing jeans and gym shoes, and a heavy blue crew-neck sweater. He, too, has a briefcase.
“Irwin Isaac Meiselman,” he says, extending his hand. He says the name with authority, as if he had expected me to know it.
“I’m writing a book about immigration to America,” he says, “which is why I attended your lecture on Willa Cather this evening. She is, as you mentioned in your talk, one of the great chroniclers of immigration, and she figures heavily in the chapter of my book on the Scandinavian migration. My chapter’s still in draft form, but I thought you might like to read it.”
Were this a world in which candour was allowed, I should have said, “Of course I don’t want to read your chapter. Why the hell would I want to do that?” Instead I hear myself saying, “Sounds interesting. I’d very much like to read it.”
He has already fished out of his briefcase what looks like a manuscript of fifty or so pages. I glimpse at it only long enough to note that it is typed single-spaced.
I have been sand-bagged by experts in this line. People write me flattering emails. My answer occasions further flattering emails, which eventually lead to a request that I read a seven-hundred-page historical novel my correspondent has written, set in fifth-century AD Byzantium. “This correspondence,” as the old Times Literary Supplement used to note of exchanges in its letters columns that had gone on too long, “is hereby ended.”
I thought my radar for such supplicants was by now fairly well developed, but I had never been confronted so directly as by this man Meiselman. After I put his somewhat smudgy manuscript in my own briefcase, he presents me with his business card. “Irwin Isaac Meiselman, Independent Scholar,” it reads, and lists his address, 6327 N. Bell Avenue, Chicago, Il. 60645, in the lower left-hand corner and his phone number, 773-262-3444, in the lower right-hand corner.
“I’ll be eager to know what you think about it,” he says.
“I’ll get back to you,” I say, eager only to slip this Meiselman’s company and get home.
“Take your time,” he says. “If I don’t hear from you in three or four days, I’ll call you.” He extends a small padded hand, more like a paw, for me to shake as he takes his leave.
When I returned to my apartment, I removed the manuscript from my briefcase, and placed it in the bottom of my already over-crowded inbox. So much, I thought, for Stanley Melvin Mitzenmacher, or whatever the hell his name is.
Five days later, a Wednesday, mid-morning, my best working hours, my phone rings.
“Hi, Ed, Irwin Isaac Meiselman here.”
My name is Edward Kastell, the name under which I both write and live. When I was a kid, friends called me Eddy, but no one, now or then, has ever called me Ed. My wife doesn’t call me Ed. I have never for a moment thought of myself as Ed. Why, suddenly, am I cut down to Ed and this Meiselman, a stranger, gets three full slightly preposterous names? Beware, I tell myself, three-named Jews.
“Hello,” I say, trying to put as much formality in my voice as possible, “this is Edward Kastell. What can I do for you, Mr Meiselman?”
“I was just wondering, Ed, what you thought of my Scandinavian chapter.”
“Haven’t quite finished it, but I’ve found what I’ve read thus far full of interest.” I hadn’t of course read a word of it.
“Any chance for lunch today to give me your ideas about it.”
“Afraid I’m booked for today, and the next few weeks are crowded ones for me,” I say.
“OK,” he says, “how’s Tuesday, February 11? I can come to Evanston.”
February 11 turns out to be one of those Muscovite-like Chicago days, the temperature around 10 above zero, a sleety schmutz blowing in the wind. At Meiselman’s suggestion we meet at a Greek restaurant called the Golden Olympic, upon whose awning is written, you’ll have to believe me on this, “A Family Restaurant with Just a Touch of Greece.”
Meiselman is awaiting me, sitting at a table towards the back of the restaurant, papers spread out before him. In preparation for this lunch, I had dragged my eyes across his manuscript. Not exactly what people nowadays call an easy read. The writing is serious but with an air of hopelessness about it; or maybe it is hopeless with an air of seriousness about it. I’m not sure which. When I say hopeless what I mean is that it is beyond question unpublish-able. Meiselman’s prose is clotted, filled with academic locutions (lots of “as it weres” and “if you wills”), its author stopping several times in his narrative to put down earlier scholars on the subject. Having said this, I have to add that it showed a great deal of hard work. Some of the footnotes reference books in Scandinavian languages, which made me wonder if its author had taught himself Swedish and Norwegian for this book.
Meiselman waves but does not get up.
“How goes it, Ed?” he says, extending his childlike hand. His fingernails are dirty. Hair grows out of his ears.
“OK,” I say. “Colder, though, than a politician’s kiss out there.”
“Chicago, what do you expect? I’m just getting ready another draft chapter for you. It’s on the Jews, our people,” he says, with an odd, slightly contemptuous, chuckle.
“I’d have thought that subject maybe has been done to death.”
“Not at all,” Meiselman says. “Besides, I think I have a new angle on it.”
“What is that?”
“It’s that in emigrating from Europe, and especially Eastern Europe, the more adventurous Jews went inland and down south. The tamer Jews, exhausted by their trip, stayed in New York, which offered less in the way of opportunity. So it turns out that in New York you had lots of proletarian Jews — factory workers, house painters, milkmen — but not so many in other American cities, where Jews tended to open shops, sell goods, take more risks, be more entrepreneurial.”
“Interesting,” I say, and mean it. Have I underrated Irwin Isaac Meiselman?
Meiselman orders a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a turkey-bacon club sandwich, and a Coke. I have just the soup, hoping to make a fairly quick escape from this lunch.
When I ask if he is married, Meiselman tells me that he isn’t, though he had come close once. “It’s a long story,” he says. I ask him where he works (in connection with his manuscript the old line, “Don’t give up your day job” comes to mind), and he says that he doesn’t have to. His mother died when he was seventeen, and father, with whom he continued to live, died nine years ago, and left him, an only child, with enough money to be able to devote the rest of his life to study.
“My father was a hustler,” Meiselman says. “He came out of World War Two and drove a cab. He bought a second cab. He went from there to acquire a hot dog joint on the old West Side, near the Sears mail-order centre. Then he bought a second hot dog stand on Western Avenue, a joint called Beefy 19, you may remember it, near Foster. He never ran any of these places himself. He always had partners doing the actual work. He finally sold everything and acquired an appliance parts business, which allowed him a minor monopoly on appliance parts for the whole northern and northwestern suburban sections of Chicago.”
“Impressive,” I say. “My own father was an accountant. Unlike yours, he was a cautious type.”
“My old man,” Meiselman continues, “once said to me that he thought that if he were away from his business for six months his employees could only cheat him out of eight per cent of the profits. A funny thing to tell me, when you think about it, since I was one of his employees.”
Meiselman slurps up the last of his soup, and starts on his club sandwich. He pours lots of ketchup on his fries.
“I believe my father was dyslexic,” Meiselman says. “I never saw him read anything. Whenever I’d give him anything to read, he’d say, ‘You read it to me’.”
“How come you didn’t take over his business?” I ask.
“Because I wasn’t any good at it. My father thought about business, money, the angles, full-time. My mind was always elsewhere.”
“Where did you go to school?”
“Illinois here in Chicago,” he says. “I was a lousy student. I daydreamed. I wasn’t a conventional person, and couldn’t be expected to learn in the regular way, though I didn’t know it at the time. A lot of geniuses didn’t do well in school. You probably know that.”
Modesty was not Irwin Isaac Meiselman’s problem. Nor did he need the world to concur with him in his high estimate of himself. He paused to take a large bite out of his club sandwich, a quarter of the contents of which fell onto his plate.
After his father’s death, Meiselman went on to recount, he sold the appliance parts business, and went off to live for two years in Israel, but didn’t find it to his liking. He moved to Los Angeles, hoping to write sitcoms, but nothing came of that. He worked for six months for Steppenwolf Theatre, in some vague capacity that he did not explain very well. He published a book of poems, privately printed, a copy of which he promised (I took it as a threat) to send to me. He thinks of himself, he tells me, as an observer, an unattached intellectual, or, as he puts it, his mouth full of french fries, “Chicago’s only full-time flâneur.”
He scoffs up the remainder of his sandwich and orders a second Coke. He has a bit of mayonnaise on the right upper corner of his lips. I decide not to tell him about it; it adds to his charm.
“To change the subject,” Meiselman says, and here I thought he was going to ask me about my life or my own writing, for I had after all published five works of fiction, and a book of literary criticism, “do you by any chance have an agent?”
“I do, a woman in New York named Letitia Baumgartner.”
“Think she might want to take me on as a client for my immigration book?”
I think of Letitia, tall, thin, cool in judgment, utterly professional in bearing, phlegmatic, properly pessimistic. I try to imagine the letter I might write introducing Irwin Isaac Meiselman and his hopeless single-spaced manuscript to her. Impossible.
Not a chance in the world, pal, I think, but instead say, “I know Letitia isn’t taking on any new clients at the moment. But this could change.”
Meiselman orders rice pudding for dessert. He tells me an off-colour joke about rice pudding, so gruesome that I tell myself to block out that I’d ever heard it. His own laughter at its punchline doesn’t travel up to his eyes.
When the check arrives, he asks the waitress if the restaurant takes American Express, which it turns out it doesn’t. In other words, I am stuck for the bill, which isn’t for a great sum — $26.17, plus tip — but, given that I had read his manuscript and that he was coming to me for advice, shouldn’t have been mine to pay.
As we leave the Golden Olympic, I resolve never to allow myself to be trapped into seeing Irwin Isaac Meiselman again. And I wouldn’t have, but for his reminding me, once we were out on the street, that I had forgotten his seventy-eight page (single-spaced, of course) chapter on the Jews, which we both go back into the restaurant to recover.
Two days later, 10.15 in the morning, my phone rings. I see from caller ID the name I.I. Meiselman. What does that nudnik want now, I wonder, but not enough to pick up the phone. After a brief interval, I check my voicemail.
“Irwin Isaac Meiselman here. Just wanted to let you to know that I took the liberty of contacting your agent. I sent her an email. I told her we were friends and that you were nuts about my immigration book, at least of those parts that you’ve seen. I attached my chapter on the Italian immigration for her to read. Hope I didn’t overstep the bounds here. Call once you’ve had a chance to read my Jewish chapter. Take care, Ed.”
I made a mental note to call Letitia to explain that I scarcely knew this guy. But first to Irwin Isaac flamin’ Meiselman.
“Hi, Ed,” Meiselman says when I telephone him.
“Mr Meiselman,” I say, not in the least having to feign anger, “you were out of bounds in using my name in writing to my agent about your manuscript. Way out of bounds. I never gave you permission to call my agent or to use my name. I never even said that I liked what you’ve written, goddamit.”
“Call me Irwin, please,” he says, calmly.
“I prefer to call you Mr Meiselman, and I distinctly prefer that you call me Mr Kastell.”
“I didn’t mean to give offence,” he says, without any note of apology in his voice that I can discern.
“Give offence?” I say. “Mr Meiselman, if I weren’t myself Jewish, I’d consider what you’ve done a one-man incitement to a pogrom.”
“Calm down, Ed, please,” he says.
“Kastell, Mr Kastell,” I say, scream actually. “When I get off the phone, I’m going to call my agent to let her know that I am not in any way your sponsor. We’re quits, Meiselman, you got that?”
“Just one thing,” he says. “My chapter on the Jews — you have my only copy. May I come by to pick it up?”
“I’ll mail it to you,” I say.
“I don’t trust the mail. Lots of work went into that chapter. How about we meet for coffee, and I take it from you then?”
“I’ll FedEx it to you. It’ll go out today.” And I hang up.
The next day I myself receive a small package from FedEx. It contains Meiselman’s slender book of privately printed poems and a letter. The letter, with its opening saluation of “Dear Mr Kastell,” offers an abject apology, of an elaborateness that resembled the chapters I had seen of his immigration book, overwritten, though without the footnotes. Its postscript, presumptious as always, reads: “I hope we can put all this behind us, Ed, and meet again soon for lunch.”
As for the book of poems, it was inscribed “With affection and admiration”. Flinches is its title, a title much superior to the poems, every one of them spoiled by undistinguished social-science language that has no business winding up in poems. Glimpsing the poems in the book, I myself flinched at one line that read: “The hebetude of my lifestyle left her unwilling to interact.” The content was something else. Each of the poems registers a defeat or disappointment in its author’s life. The first disappointment is about his mother’s dying before he really got to know her. Another is about his failure to live up to his father’s expectations. Others are about different women, as he delicately puts it, “dumping” on him. A poem called “Double-Cross” is about a boyhood friend who betrayed him, stealing his high-school girlfriend. One poem describes his disgust with his own body. Not exactly instructive and or delightful, Irwin Isaac Meiselmen’s poems, yet in their cumulative effect sad and strangely moving. What became clear from the poems is that Meiselman considered himself a loser but without the least clue about the appalling pushiness and insensitivity to others that helped make him so.
When Meiselman’s book of poems arrived I knew its author would not take long to follow. One Wednesday morning, as I felt I was breaking through on a crucial chapter early in my new novel, the phone rang, and, without the aid of caller ID I was certain it was Meiselman. He may not have had much talent for writing, but his talent for calling at precisely the wrong time was unsurpassed.
“Ed, Irwin Isaac Meiselman here.”
“Yes?” I say, attempting to get as little welcome and as much disdain into my voice as possible. I decide to give up on the lost cause of telling him not to call me Ed.
“Hope you received my book of poems.”
“I did,” I say, and deliberately do not offer any even tepid compliments, lest they offer him an opening wedge. My intention is to treat this call as if it were from a charity rumoured to be strongly anti-Semitic.
“The reason I’m calling,” Meiselman says, “is that I have to ask a favour of you. A big favour, I’m afraid.”
“What is it?”
“I’d rather ask you in person,” he says. “Are you by any chance free for coffee this afternoon?”
“Not this afternoon,” I hear myself saying. “Tomorrow afternoon is better.” Weakling, I think to myself. Enough of this jerk already.
We agree to meet the next day at 4pm at the Mozart Café coffee shop in Evanston. When I arrive, Meiselman is seated at an ice-cream table along the back wall. He looks up as I enter. Do I imagine it, or does he look thinner, greyer? He is unshaven; if he is going for the Don Johnson Miami Vice look, it’s not coming off.
“Hi, Ed,” he says, not getting up. He has a cup of coffee before him and a biscotti. He makes no offer to buy me a coffee, so I excuse myself to walk over to the counter and buy a coffee and biscotti for myself.
When I return to the small table, I remark that biscotti is really nothing more than a $3 piece of mandel bread with a slight Italian accent. My small joke gets no response.
“So what’s your big news?” I ask.
“I have cancer,” he says, looking down into his coffee. “Pancreatic. A death sentence, I’m told.”
I was expecting to hear that he had found a publisher. Or that he was planning to write a novel. Or had obtained another agent. I wasn’t expecting to hear cancer.
“Shitty luck,” is all I can think to say.
“Yeah,” he replies. “It comes at a time when I was closing in on my chapter on Asian immigration to the West Coast. Anyhow I’ve agreed to undergo chemotherapy in the hope of lasting another eight or ten months, which I hope will give me time to finish my book.”
“Is the chemo rough?”
“Very,” he says. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
What’s next? What’s he going to ask of me? Pancreatic cancer, I think, doesn’t involve bone marrow transplant, thank God, or I’m sure he’d ask me for that.
“I’m exhausted after my chemo sessions. I can get to St Francis Hospital here in Evanston on my own. But can I ask you to take me home after? I’m too zonked to call and wait for a cab.”
“How often do you go?”
“Three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, two weeks on, one off. It’s a lot to ask, I know.”
Meiselman had shown up at my Cather lecture unaccompanied; at our lunch he never mentioned friends. The poems in Flinches are as much about loneliness as they are about disappointment. Not that I have any difficulty understanding why, but he must be friendless. How else explain his turning to me, whom he barely knows, to help him out in this crisis?
Better not to get involved, I tell myself. Time to jump this ship on which I never booked passage.
“What time are your chemo sessions?” I hear myself ask.
“From ten to eleven in the morning,” he says.
If I pick him up outside the hospital and drive him over to his apartment on Bell, then allow another twenty minutes or so to get back, I can make the entire trip in under an hour. God knows I waste at least an hour most mornings on the phone with friends or futzing around on the internet.
I arrange to pick Meiselman up the following Monday in front of St Francis, on the Ridge Avenue side. He is standing there, not far back from the kerb, as I drive up. When he gets into my Honda, I note his colour is drained, his eyes have a slight glint of terror. He pulls the seatbelt around him, sets the seat back, and closes his eyes.
“Thanks for doing this,” he says. “If I had to wait for a cab, I’m not sure I could make it. Mondays are the worst, especially after a week off.”
“It’s poison, chemo,” I say, just to make conversation, “poison meant to counteract the poison of the cancer,” which exhausts my knowledge of the subject.
“That’s what they say,” Meiselman replies. “They also say that a person can die from the chemo.” He lets his head turn toward the window.
As we climb the three flights to his apartment, Meiselman leans against me. This is the apartment in which he had grown up, the apartment he lived in with his parents and shared with his father after his mother’s death. Walking into it I feel I am returning to the early 1960s. A lime-coloured green shag rug, wall-to-wall, covers the floor. A white couch is against one wall, under a painting of a girl in profile with a large tear falling from her eye and holding a pet rabbit. A glass coffee table sits before the couch, with a bowl filled with hard candies upon it. A large ornate lamp is on a table between two red velour chairs at the front window. On the mantle over the sealed-up fireplace is a shadow box, in whose many inserts are different kinds of tea cups and saucers, a collection doubtless of Meiselman’s long-dead mother.
This living room is not so different from the one I had grown up in, though Meiselman’s is, from age, shabbier. I note lots of dust everywhere. Another difference is that every flat surface in the room is covered by papers or books and magazines, a mark of the bachelor intellectual, even, as in Meiselman’s case, the failed one.
Meiselman flops on the white couch, without bothering to take off his New Balance running shoes. “If my mother saw me like this on her couch,” he says, “she would have three conniptions and four heart attacks.”
“Mine, too,” I say, “except our white couch had plastic covers. You and I are the children of the white-couch brigade.”
Meiselman’s eyes are closed. He doesn’t hear me. He is falling asleep.
“Excuse me if I’m not more sociable,” he says.
“Don’t worry about it, Irwin,” I say. It strikes me that I have not before now called him by his first name. “I’ll pick you same time, same place, on Wednesday.”
“Thanks, Ed,” I hear him mutter, as I close the front door behind me.
Driving back to Evanston I think about what it was that had given Meiselman first his artistic and now his scholarly aspirations. How does it come about that a guy like Meiselman can think he is able to write poems that anyone in the world is likely to care in the least about? In his sleep right now, it occurs to me, he may well be dreaming of the acclaim his book on immigration will earn.
My own case, was it all that different? I wrote novels. A firm in New York agreed to publish five of them, though I couldn’t be sure how many more they might want. The novels were respectfully reviewed, but sold in modest numbers. The small advances I got for them supplemented the income from my teaching job at Northeastern Illinois and lent me cachet as a teacher of creative writing. They also allowed me to think of myself as a writer.
We’d both swallowed the Kool-Aid, Irwin Isaac and I, both believed that writing elevated us above our backgrounds, making us more than guys hustling appliance parts like Meiselman’s father or doing other people’s taxes like my own. Writers were grander than that, mind-workers, artists. Meiselman, scribbling away, was of course kidding himself. What about me?
I made seven more trips to pick up Meiselman in front of St Francis and drop him off at his apartment. In my mind they all blur into the same trip. He would get in my car; scarcely say more than hello; fall asleep on the short trip to his Bell Avenue apartment; struggle up the stairs, leaning against me; flop on the white couch in his living room, mumble a thank you as I departed his apartment. The only difference is that after my third trip he began wearing a wool pea-cap, which he didn’t take off in the car or in his apartment. The hat was there to cover up the loss of what little hair he had to begin with. He was notably thinner, and the look of terror in his eyes — a premonition of death? — seemed intensified. Because at fifty-six he was relatively young, they filled him with powerful potions of chemotherapy. “With pancreatic cancer,” he told me, “they figure what do I have to lose, except for my sideburns, my appetite, and my energy?”
Three weeks later, Meiselman called to say that he wouldn’t need to be picked up any longer. His oncologist at St Francis, a Dr Mutchnik, had determined that the chemo wasn’t doing any good, and he would be checking him into the hospice section of the hospital.
“Is there anything I can do?” I ask.
“Yeah,” Meiselman says, “you can find a cure for cancer. But in my case you better make it quick.” I feel a tinge of relief when he doesn’t ask me to run any errands or visit him in the hospice at St Francis.
Truth is I didn’t think much about Irwin Isaac Meiselman after that last call. I don’t read a Chicago paper, and therefore had no exact notion when he died. In such matters, what difference does exactitude make? All I knew was that I would receive no more mid-morning Meiselman calls; have no more single-spaced manuscripts thrust upon me; with luck would for the last time in my life be called Ed.
Then, one day, mid-morning, my phone rings, and my caller ID displays the names Freifeld & Berman.
“Mr Kastell, my name is Sidney Freifeld, and I represent the estate of the late Irwin Isaac Meiselman. Mr Meiselman mentions you in his will.”
“Really?” was all I can think to say.
“Yes,” this Freifeld says, in a lubricious voice. “His will stipulates that you are to receive $30,000 in return for services to be rendered.”
“The sum of $30,000 is to be paid out to you for editing and completing Irwin Isaac Meiselman’s work in progress on the subject of immigration to America.”
A joke, right? I think. Someone’s pulling my chain. Yet I never told anyone but my wife about Meiselman.
“There are other stipulations,” Freifeld continued. “The completed book is to bear the name Irwin Isaac Meiselman alone on the title page. The book is also to be copyrighted in his name, with all royalties going to the Irwin Isaac Meiselman Estate.”
“Mr Freifeld,” I say, “I think you should know that I scarcely knew Mr Meiselman. I also know nothing out of the ordinary about immigration, to America or anywhere else. Much as I’d like to have the thirty grand, I am in no position to undertake the work needed to collect it.”
“Interesting,” said Freifeld. “In my meetings with him at the St Francis hospice, Mr Meiselman led me to believe that you were friends and that you have had a deep interest in his book.”
”I was not a friend of Mr Meiselman’s, and it is more precise to say that I had — and continue to have — a nearly complete lack of interest in his book.”
“Maybe before you make a final decision you do best to visit my office, where Mr Meiselman’s unfinished manuscript and notes reside in three large boxes. This book, as you must know Mr Kastell, was everything to Mr Meiselman.”
“I know it very well,” I say. “But I don’t feel the need to give three or four years of my life to making a dead man’s dream come true.”
“Your call,” says Freifeld. “But if you change your mind, the manuscript and other items are here, 116 S. Michigan Avenue, 14th floor.” If I don’t hear from you in within the next six months, the $30,000 will revert to the estate.”
I thought a fair amount about that $30,000 during the next few weeks. I thought about it when I took our seventeen-year-old daughter Janeane on a tour of colleges in the east. I thought about it when I learned that I would have to have three back teeth removed and implants set on the lower left side of my jaw. I thought about it when my editor instructed me that the characters in the rough draft of my new novel failed to come alive, and perhaps I would do best to abandon it. I thought about it because it seemed a shame to allow Freifeld and the other legal bandidos in his firm slowly to filch the money over the years in legal costs. I thought about it just because, as the man who climbed Mount Everest is supposed to have said, it was there.
And so here I sit, in the small extra bedroom in our apartment that I call my study, Meiselman’s three boxes of manuscripts and notes dominating the room, heavily rewriting the book he planned to call Huddled Masses. Turns out I was mistaken when I told Sidney Freifeld that it would require three or four years to clean up Meiselman’s book; I now think that working nights and weekends, it can be made presentable and I hope publishable in a year or so. I don’t say it will be a great book; I don’t think it will be a distinguished one. I’ve shown a few of my reworked chapters to Letitia Baumgartner, who has no interest in handling it but tells me that it is a book that might find a home at a secondary university press, Missouri, maybe, or Northwestern. God, I hope she’s right. I want this book out in the world so that for the rest of my life I need never give another thought to Irwin Isaac Meiselman.