"Books are a social substitute; you read people who, at one level, you want to hang out with"
From "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself" (2010) by David Lipsky
That quote, from Lipsky's book about the time he spent with the late David Foster Wallace, kept playing in my head as I rammed through "Mortality", a 2012 posthumous release by Christopher Hitchens. Capturing my reaction to Hitchens' final musings in my book journal, I reflected on two other favorite essayists I can't hang out with anymore: John Updike and recently, Gore Vidal. Since Wallace's suicide in 2008, I've lost four friends I never met. At present, Jonathan Lethem is the top living essayist on my dance card.
And though I'm a bit intimidated by the intellect of all five of these guys, reading them is very good for me. Reminds me how energized I (usually) feel playing guitar next to someone more accomplished than I or losing at tennis for a parallel reason. If I can just keep that nasty ego at bay, I learn and grow. How about you? In what domains of your life do you work at challenging yourself?