Playing along with the farce
I’m not saying I will, but I could go on for hours escorting the reader–forcibly, if necessary–back and forth across the Paris-Chinese border. I happen to regard the Laughing Man as some kind of super-distinguished ancestor of mine–a sort of Robert E. Lee, say, with the ascribed virtues held under water or blood. And this illusion is only a moderate one compared to the one I had in 1928, when I regarded myself not only as the Laughing Man’s direct descendant but as his only legitimate living one. I was not even my parents’ son in 1928 but a devilishly smooth imposter, awaiting their slightest blunder as an excuse to move in–preferably without violence, but not necessarily–to assert my true identity. As a precaution against breaking my bogus mother’s heart, I planned to take her into my underworld employ in some undefined but appropriately regal capacity. But the main thing I had to do in 1928 was watch my step. Play along with the farce. Brush my teeth. Comb my hair. At all costs, stifle my natural hideous laughter.
–J.D. Salinger, The Laughing Man