Amazing, the power of memory. I’m reading “The Year of Lear,” a look at the London of 1606 and three plays Shakespeare wrote that year—“King Lear,” “Macbeth” and “Antony and Cleopatra. As I read the harrowing scene in which Lear says, “Who is it that can tell me who I am?” a moment from college leapt onto in my mind’s stage. One of the best possible professors, Fred Sochatoff, was in front of the class, darting and pirouetting in sheer exuberance at teaching language and literature, as he always did, though he was in his 60s. This was at Carnegie Mellon in the early 70s. He used that line from Lear as part of a course overview and it was a touchstone for him, a reminder to all of us that interacting with literature is the act of self-discovery as we witness self-discovery in real and fictional characters. Sochatoff was brilliant and impish, erudite and encouraging. He could have been one of the good guys at Hogwarts. He wanted the sparks he threw to land and light the tinder in our heads and hearts, and he accomplished that with me. I took more than one course from him, and I was able to talk him into teaching me Latin one-on-one for two semesters. We’d read Caesar and Cicero first thing in the morning, him with his ever-present pipe, me enthralled at an office filled with old works and classic busts. In the other classes, he kept us abreast of the best in modern playwriting and regaled us with tales of openings on Broadway. He wrote the line that kept my mother going at a time when I had begun spiraling out of control in a lot of ways. In an evaluation at the end of my first course with him, he wrote, “I have high hopes for this lad.” After college, as the spinning grew wilder and I lost my moorings, literature was my lifeline. I’d had great teachers in Catholic schools and had a firm grounding in the basics, but Sochatoff made me an adult reader, someone who interacted with rather than reacted to great writing. No matter what I went through after that, I was a hungry reader and in great works I found connection, recognition, empathy and, finally, hope. It was there that I stayed connected until I was able to piece together who I was and finally step back from the precipice. The sense of that time and that spark is really powerful right now, thanks to that line quoted by that insightful literary imp four decades ago. Thank you, Dr. Sochatoff. You helped light the way.