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Defining Souter

May 14, 2009

At the New York Times, a short piece describing retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter and questioning the sometimes quirky reputation that has developed around him:

Souter’s been painted as a strange, little man stranded in the wrong century, unsociable in the live-alone-with-your-cat sort of way. He eats a solo lunch at his desk every day, the same lunch, an apple and yogurt. And, talk about New England Gothic — he eats the apple through to the core!

At his 200-year-old family farmhouse — badly in need of a paint job, as numerous observers have noted — he has no e-mail access, no answering machine, a television that’s never been plugged in. And, strangest of all: he’s leaving one of the most powerful positions on earth because he wants more time to hike in his beloved New Hampshire mountains.

To many, this last assertion is proof of his advanced eccentricity. But let’s give him his due: anyone who has climbed every one of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks, as the springy 69-year-old Souter reportedly has done, knows a kind of exhilaration that his black-robed colleagues in the tidal basin will never know.

How strange is it, really, to want another taste of the savage winds atop Mount Washington before the knees go bad?

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