“He was almost always mentally irritated. The slightest flaw, real or imaginary, in his companions’ statements, caused in him intellectual indignation of the most intense kind. And there seemed to be something in him which took it for granted that anything said by anybody except himself needed immediate denial or at least substantial modification.”
That’s in Janet Malcolm’s “Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice,” in a passage describing Gertrude Stein’s brother Leo. Gertrude and Leo had a falling out driven by Leo’s conviction that his sister was “basically stupid” but had won literary acclaim and celebrity through a combination of clever artifice, self-admiration and self-assurance. The only reason I’m mentioning it here is that sometimes you come across a description that holds up a mirror to one of your less attractive qualities. “Always mentally irritated … intelllectual indignation of the most intense kind … anything said by anybody except himself needed immediate denial”? I recognize that guy.
“Two Lives” is wonderful, by the way, if you’re looking for a quick but absorbing read.