Matthew Broderick

The Collector

On a warm Saturday in early July, an employee at the Maryland Historical Society placed a call to the police. He had noticed two visitors behaving strangely—a young, tall, handsome man with high cheekbones and full lips and a much older, heavier man, with dark, lank hair and a patchy, graying beard. The older man had called in advance to give the librarians a list of boxes of documents he wanted to see, saying that he was researching a book. At some point during their visit, the employee saw the younger man slip a document into a folder.

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Idiocy has a time-honored link to illumination. “The prophet is a fool,” warned Hosea, “the spiritual man is mad.” The uninhibited man (I mean the really uninhibited man), the man who is not governed by norms and manners, the ridiculous man, the tasteless man, the obscene man, the man who does not think reasonably and realistically, the man who never stops laughing: The figure has taken many forms, and one of them is the meshuggene. Civilization makes craziness look like a variety of courage, of intellectual elevation.

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