I’m sitting in my parents’ living room, listening to my older brother, Ben, tell the family how he’s recently discovered that his phone is being tapped. His tone is casual, even upbeat, as if he were discussing a stretch of unusually good weather. Ben has always been slightly askew, his worldview occasionally odd and impenetrable, his personality lurching between a kind of angry impatience at the world’s inability to understand him, and an ironic and self-deprecating humor.

“It’s complicated,” Ben hisses in sudden frustration, veering in the direction of angry impatience. He’s irritated at our father, who has asked Ben for the third time to repeat himself. On the one hand, Dad is nearly deaf, and on the other, he is of a constitution inimical to anything that smacks of “craziness,” especially when it involves one of his own sons.