I wasn't able to digest the death of the great writer J. D. Salinger, as I was mourning my hero Howard Zinn.
I love Catcher in the Rye, and Franny and Zooey, and Seymour Glass. All live very vividly in my memory. Salinger's passing reminds me that it's time to re-read Catcher for the however-many-th time.
I would also use the occasion of mentioning Catcher to plug Rule of the Bone, by Russell Banks. Bone is Holden for another generation. He is the grandson of Huck Finn and the son of Holden Caulfield.
I acknowledge Salinger and his brief, enormous contribution to our literature. But I can't say I'll miss him, or that his passing is a loss. How can we miss someone we haven't seen in 50 years? Perhaps Salinger's decision to cease contributing to our literary wealth and withdraw from the public was a loss. But with that choice, he became as least as famous for being unknown and unseen than for his justly famous book. For many people, Salinger's reclusive life in New Hampshire became a commentary on publishing, fame, celebrity, America, what have you. But whether that was his intention, we can never know.
All I can say about J. D. Salinger is that I hope he was content. I hope he felt his choice was a positive one.
Seeing his youthful photo in the obituaries, contrasted by the senior but still vigorous Howard Zinn, I couldn't help but compare what they gave the world, and find Salinger lacking. That's unfair of me, no doubt, but by contrast with Zinn, Salinger's reclusivity seems like an egotistical indulgence.
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