Sometime in the summer of 2008 I received a call from Randall Griﬀey,
the curator of American art at the Mead Museum of Amherst College.
I had not met Randall before and had not really had any connection to
the Mead, even though I had been on the faculty of Amherst College for
decades. Randy (as I came to know him) was calling me because he had
read a book I had recently written on loneliness, and thought that I might
be interested in participating in an event at the Mead during the 2008–9
academic year. A New York artist named Will Barnet was donating a
painting to the Mead Museum. Given the subject matter of the painting,
he and Elizabeth Barker, the director of the Mead, thought I might be a
good interlocutor with this artist when he came to present the painting
in February of 2009.