Zinn and Salinger, RIP.
In my college years, I was obsessed with Zinn’s real histories. He helped shape my understanding of the world, and thus who I am. I try to make everyone read those books, and others of similar topic by other authors. I must confess to have only read Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories of Salinger’s work, but Catcher and I have a romantic story of sorts.
I read it in high school, wrote a report and forgot about it. But in 1996 I hitchhiked across the country to meet a bass player a mutual friend said that I should be writing music with. I was just that adventurous back then. I moved to Telluride, CO for a handful of months to collaborate musically with these gentlemen. I hitched a ride with an odd man and his dogs from NY to CO. I arrived with a duffel of clothes and an old guitar.
In Telluride, they have a famous “Free Box,” where people put stuff they think other people might want but they have no use for anymore. The Free Box was very good to me in an almost mystical sense, always providing when I was in need. I found a copy of Catcher in the Rye in the Free Box just before hitching a ride back home to NY with a hippie in a VW bus. I read it on my travels, and have nearly every year since.
It’s not so much that I identify with Holden; I’ve actually always been somewhat of a workaholic and overachiever. But the tone of Catcher is very soothing and poetic to me. It smells of reality to me. Holden’s instability exists in most people I’ve encountered, especially when they recount stories. The novel helps me realize that a certain amount of angst is natural. I do identify with themes of alienation on some level, and very much so with rebellious spirit. It’s no surprise to me that the author, Salinger, spent much of his life in recluse. He told us that story and about feeling chronically misunderstood. THAT, I get.
Both of these men have helped shape the man I am, for better or for worse. I’m sad to see each of them go, but am grateful for the work they blessed us with.I deeply encourage anyone who has not read these men to do so. Their legacies will outlive us all.