Mark Twain came downstairs every night and read what he wrote during the day to his family at the dinner table. When I first learned that fact it seemed wonderful. I’d like to have a built in audience, every night. Now I wonder– when did his family read their stories? To whom? He was the only one who read, night after night, the whole edifice of his family about him and his career. Which is not to say he wasn’t generous, or that he wasn’t loving, but just that he had the Y chromosome advantage, a conviction so deep it wasn’t even conscious, that what he had to say was important, that it might be the most important thing at the dinner table, night after night, decades upon decades.

Something incredibly tragic, Shakespearean, about the end of his life– he died alone, his wife and two beloved daughters dead before him. The third daughter, the one who lived, described as willful and temperamental, was unable to enter, even to walk past, the huge house he built for them all to share.