Internet column

Internet column

Internet column

Andrew Brown

A little over a month ago, a friend Iíd never met disappeared from the face of the earth. Alexander McIntire, an administrator at the University of Miami, seemed to have taught his way around the world.

Itís extraordinary that I know so little about him, yet feel so strongly. I have an idea that he is extremely fat from something he once said. But thatís about all. He has a thirteen-year-old daughter. He had taught in all sorts of primitive places, from Montana to Afghanistan, and was frighteningly knowledgeable about them: we once got in a spat because I had referred casually to a "machismo belt" running from the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush. It was a nice phrase, but he was convinced things were more complicated.

But these kind of half-glimpses are like the way one knows a favourite author: they seem accidents of his personality rather than essentials. The essentials were the unfailing public wit, and private kindness; and his ability with almost everything he wrote to make the world seem a more interesting place, that needed further exploration. I donít want to exaggerate these things. In as much as the Well is a real place, it is as full of indifference and ignorance as real places are. Many people on there did not notice McIntire, did not feel they knew him, and couldnít see what the fuss was about when it finally broke out. But then the Well has a notional population of around 8,000 now. Thatís larger than the town where I live, and I canít think of anyone here whoís disappearance would convulse everyone with grief. There were even some of us who did not turn out with a thousand of our fellow-citizens to mourn Diana.

It took a little while for the news to appear. His wife did not want publicity. Eventually, his friend Jon Carroll, a columnist on the San Fransisco Chronicle, announced it on the Well.

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