It was my mother who had long ago planted in me the habit of writing things down in order to understand them. When I was five, she gave me a red corduroy-covered notebook for Christmas. I sat in my floral nightgown turning the blank pages, puzzled. “What do I do with it?” I wanted to know. “You write down things that happened to you that day.” “Why would I want to do that?” “Because maybe they’re interesting and you want to remember them.” “What would I write?” “Well, you’d write something like ‘Today I saw a woman with purple hair crossing Montague Street.’”