August 17, 2019:

"Now that's a piece of writing," he said, quietly but in stentorian cadence, to emphasize his wisdom and his generosity in sharing. It was some ridiculous repetitive example of leitmotif in The Magic Mountain and it bored me silly.

He loved Thomas Mann because he loved ironic detachment: the very quality he sought to cultivate in himself, particularly when confronted with serious questions whose answers he didn't know, or when he didn't like the questioner. He was not remotely detached while he groped his girl-students' breasts in the passenger seat of his absurd diesel BMW, which I imagine is the car he thought Thomas Mann would drive. In class he affected irony as existential choice, the deft humor of the absurdity of the world, meaning your place in it, not his.

As he rose through the hierarchy of academe to become an ever-larger fish it's unlikely he realized how badly his tiny pond stank. That would have implied irony toward himself. Irony was about you, kid.

They still swim in that pond. That whole lot. As though they believe with all their hearts it's the most vibrant and important pond in all the aquatic universe. Without a hint of irony.