One night I begged Robin, a scientist by training, to watch Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' with me on PBS. He lasted about one act, then turned to me in horror: 'This is how you spend your days? Thinking about things like this?' I was ashamed. I could have been learning about string theory or how flowers pollinate themselves. I think his remark was the beginning of my crisis of faith. Like so many of my generation in graduate school, I had turned to literature as a kind of substitute for formal religion, which no longer fed my soul, or for therapy, which I could not afford.... I became interested in exploring the theory of nonfiction and in writing memoir, a genre that gives us access to that lost Middlemarch of reflection and social commentary.