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AlbertJayNock

Dead Authors


In the past few weeks,  JD Salinger and Howard Zinn have both pedally propelled the proverbial water container, or as the less verbose and pretentious might put it, died.

I was more familiar with the works of Salinger than I was  with Zinn's. In fact, I've read his complete works, or at least all the books he published. That's not hard though. There's four of them, and they're pretty slim volumes. You could almost make the same joke about Salinger's "complete works" as you could about Harper Lee's.

OK, that's not fair. Even leaving aside the rumor about the vaultful of unpublished works, the three novels and  collection of short stories contain more good stuff than a lot of writers produce in their life. It's been well over 20 years since I've read any of them, but there's something about all of them that stays with me. I may read them again this year. I'm not going to look through any of them while making this entry. All of my following remarks are based on what has stuck with me through the years.

The Catcher In The Rye seems dated  to many now, but only because so many have copied it's theme of alienated youth. "If  you really want to hear about it" has got to be one of the most successfully audacious openings to any novel. And even though a lot of people (including me) have criticized the passage the book gets it's title from as contrived, I've finally decided that being a catcher in the rye is a worthy aspiration. What could be more worthwhile than keeping misguided kids from running off a cliff?

I don't remember all of the Nine Stories. The two that stick with me, For Esme With Love And Squalor and A Perfect Day For Bananafish are probably the most famous. The latter was elegant and heartbreaking, the former absolutely delightful. I remember Esme asking the protagonist to write a story for her, and his answering that he is not very prolific. "Oh, it doesn't have to be prolific" she answers. I've stolen that joke many times since I first read it.

The Glass family books, Franny And Zooey and Raise High The Roofbeam,Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction aren't as famous as Catcher In The Rye, but hopefully with Salinger's passing they will get more attention. I first learned of the Jesus Prayer while reading Franny and Zooey, and how it's of much interest to Buddhists as it is to Christians, although for completely different reasons. I remember Seymour Glass teaching creative writing at a girl's school and his remark about having to read "forty stories about lesbians who commit suicide." I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember which Glass family book that's from.

Writing all that has made me want to read Salinger's books again.

I don't have as much to say about Howard Zinn, because I've never read A People's History Of The United States.I have the feeling I wouldn't like it, but I'm not going to say much beyond that. It's not fair to slam a man write after he died or to pan a book I've never read. I don't promise to be that fair when I write his haiku for Thursday night's poetry reading. And even now, I don't mind posting a link to this scathing critique of Zinn by Daniel J. Flynn, who has read Zinn's book.

I tried to be nice. Honest I did. RIP anyway, Mr.Zinn.
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