28 January 2010

Two Deaths

In the wake of the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Haiti, where people are still dying and the devastation and disease persist, pausing to note the deaths of two individual Americans—celebrities of a sort—might seem callous, especially to them.

Howard Zinn, aged 87, died yesterday. He is widely known for his alternative history text: A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present (1980). You can preview it here. His website is here and has information about him, his work and his life.
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unobtainable.”

The second? J.D. Salinger who, at age 91, also died yesterday. The New York Times obituary can be found here (if it hasn't been sequestered yet behind a pay wall). Salinger, of course, is most famous as the reclusive author of the coming-of-age novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951).
“Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behaviour. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to. Just as some day, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.”

Both books, each in its own way, managed to crack the veneer of the status quo: Zinn's the prevailing myth of America's manifest destiny and innocence in world affairs, and Salinger's the unquestioned authority of the adult world. Both railed against pervasive hypocrisy and lies and inhumanity. Each is a classic in its own right.


Frances Madeson said...

What a relief to see you back. Death can have a bracing effect. I was concerned that the recent SCOTUS coffin nail had laid you low. Your silence on that spoke volumes, to me anyway.

I was mere inches away from "your" Klee drawing last week at MOMA, part of the Bauhaus show, now closed. Lots to learn from those Bauhausians.

Jim H. said...

Not to worry, dear, that post is mulling.

Jim H.