The title is Silver's appraisal of his life before James Meredith's turbulent arrival at the U. of Mississippi--when Silver, a veteran Old Miss history professor, went public with criticism of ""Mississippi: The Closed Society,"" first in his presidential address to the Southern Historical Association and then in a book of that title. He doesn't describe the Meredith crisis here, nor even his own, catalyzing thoughts. (The ideal reader, indeed, would know both the case and writings about it.) Mainly, he wonders at the university's charge of ""contumacious conduct"" in an attempt to dismiss him--an attempt that might have been resumed had he not (for diverse, stated reasons) left voluntarily. And, looking back at earlier instances of ""contumacious conduct"" averted--from his college-expulsion (with sufficient credit to graduate) through ""temporary vagrancy"" to skepticism of ""the Negro's inherent inferiority"" (without overt action)--Silver finally concludes that he'd been dominated, from childhood, by insecurity and ""the desire to be accepted,"" even (or especially) in not wanting to appear ""obsequious."" This, he thinks, would also explain the various physical maladies that frequently immobilized him. The net effect of this confessional self-analysis is diminishing, and so is Silver's truth-telling account of the feared reprisals that didn't materialize. Least impressive, though--because largely immaterial--are the references to his ""association with Mississippi's great author,"" William Faulkner. What we do see, uncommonly, is a man of admittedly modest gifts and a somewhat refractory nature who, by happenstance, took a leading position in great events. . .and never quite got used to the idea.