a hero of our time

The essay is called “Vanishing Act.” The tag line: “How does a man disappear?”

Yes, Martin Sklar had disappeared, all right; so thoroughly that it was virtually impossible to imagine anyone ever tracking him down. But James Livingston is not just anyone. He had what it took to find Sklar, even when the onerous task took him to “the middle of nowhere” — to the “outer darkness,” to an utter “backwater.”

So where — you may ask, with bated breath — where did Livingston finally run Sklar to ground? What obscure and unvisited corner of the globe? Borneo, perhaps? The Central African Republic? Outer Mongolia? Please. It would have been child’s play to find Sklar in any of those places. No. James Livingston did what perhaps only James Livingston could have done: he tracked Sklar all the way to his remotest refuge, his place of absolute isolation: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania — where Sklar taught for many years at Bucknell. As the tenured holder of an endowed chair.

Such isolation! Such “utter obscurity”! Why, did you know that Lewisburg is more than one hundred and fifty miles from New York City? A thought not to be borne. But thank goodness James Livingston, with an intrepidity and resourcefulness scarcely to be imagined, made the journey and (more remarkable still) lived to tell the tale. A Pulitzer would scarcely be sufficient to reward such a feat of investigation and reportage.