Thursday, January 28, 2010

Loss in Two Installments

Installment One: I have little to add to the brief words of praise for J.D. Salinger at Obscene Desserts, and even if I did have something to add, it would not be as good as The Onion's remembrance:

In this big dramatic production that didn't do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. "He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers," said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don't have to look at them for four years. "There will never be another voice like his." Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it's just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.
Salinger's work did not strike me as deeply as it did so many, but I did cherish The Catcher in the Rye and rue the loss.

Installment Two: The death of historian Howard Zinn strikes more closely. For all the imperfections of academic rigor in A People's History of the United States, I am hard-pressed to name another book that better enriched my understanding of things I thought I knew or further expanded the field of questions I would think to ask about history, politics, class, and society. I had the good fortune to attend a lecture given by professor Zinn in 1995, and I'm slightly surprised and delighted to see that it was recorded and is, apparently, available for download. The world is poorer without his avowedly, insistently, unapologetically intemperate voice on behalf of peace, justice, the oppressed, and the downtrodden.

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