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“Elliott was one of those guys,” he said, “that in order to like him, you had really to like him. He made it impossible to be neutral about him. I’ve had people tell me how much they loathed him, a few even calling him ‘sick.’ I used to tell them I quite understood their feelings, didn’t even strongly disagree with their judgments, but I happen to have loved Elliott who, without his flaws, wouldn’t have been Elliott at all.”

“I guess I’m in your condition,” I said, and told him about the abandon with which Elliott made enemies at the NEA, even though it hurt him to do so. I liked Paul Levering, and we agreed to stay in touch.

Before I left I had a few words with Richard, who was now in his third year at Oxford. I asked him about his plans.

“I’ve applied for an examination fellowship at All Souls,” he said. ”The young Isaiah Berlin had one, you know.”

I neglected to say that I had never heard of Isaiah Berlin. “Best of luck,” I said. “What will you do if you don’t get it.”

“Oh,” he said casually, “I’ll probably return to the United States and become a public figure.”

I searched Richard’s face for traces of humor, sarcasm, irony, but could find none. He wasn’t kidding.

I missed Elliott’s weekly calls, with his wild theories about politics, his sometimes coarse jokes, his ever-whirring motive-finding machine. I sent an annual Christmas card to Gerianne. On a trip to New York, I neglected to call on her, but I did have lunch with Paul Levering, who took me to the Century Club and filled me in on the Lazar family.

“Sad to report,” he began, “things are largely out of control. Richard didn’t get his fellowship, and has been living in the West End Avenue apartment with his mother. They used to travel to Europe fairly regularly, always going first-class, though for reasons I’ll explain they stopped. I don’t know how much money Elliott left — I’m guessing it’s was around two million or so — but Gerianne and Richard are doing a pretty good job of going through it.”

“What does Richard do with his days?” I didn’t mention to Paul Richard’s telling me his fall-back position was to become a public figure.

“What he doesn’t do is go out of the house. Turns out he now suffers from extreme agoraphobia. So bad is it that on my last visit to the apartment, to see Gerianne, he asked if I’d mind dropping their garbarge in the chute down the hall, for he doesn’t like to leave the apartment at all, even to go down the hall. Gerianne tells me he’s also on anti-depressants. Poor kid, he’s as neurotic as a flea.”
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