One night at Harvard, McDonell and I were up at the bar getting drinks for his friends, talking about how their concerns are slightly different from his because they haven’t yet been initiated into the kind of ego frenzy that is the corollary to a professional life. I felt momentarily and inexplicably maternal—he is only 21—so I told him that everybody worries they don’t deserve what they have sometimes, that all of us occasionally fear our best selves are illusions.
He looked me straight in the eye. “I’m not a fraud,” he said. “I’m worried about not getting a fair shake because I’ve had so many advantages. But I’m not worried I can’t deliver. I know I can write.”
As an experiment, I tried to hate him for a second. But the only feeling I could locate was envy.