3 days ago
29 January 2010
So much happened this week . . .
Well, this week we lost two great old white guys. Both were authors, both also very important to American culture, each in his own way. Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, died, leaving a big old gap in the rabble-rouser section. Who will fill his able and subversive shoes?
Then, J. D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey, died at 91. Salinger's death was a bit of a shock to me, somehow despite his advanced age, because for most of my life he was just always there, in the background, being solitary. I think many of us who loved his work were always waiting for him in one way or another, for something, anything to happen. Well, I guess it finally did.
If I could thank Mr. Salinger, I would tell him that reading The Catcher in the Rye changed my life. My father bought me the novel when I was 12 or 13, I think. I had never before read a book whose protagonist was so angst ridden, so much the way I thought I was at the time. Holden seemed to me to be so deeply sad and yet somehow such a keen observer of adult life and phoniness and society that I was bowled over by him. In my mind, Holden was a real person. I still have much of the language of that book in my brain. I still say things like "Sleep tight, ya morons!" to myself when I'm in the right mood. Anyway, I love you, Holden Caulfield, and Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield. I hope this means that J.D. will finally get to find out where the ducks in Central Park go when the lake is frozen.