The Uncanny Valley

Notes on art, culture and preservation

A study in contrasts

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An American writer recently died. You know him. Maybe you read his book in high school. He was the “voice of a generation” and all that. His prose captured the rebellious nature of the American spirit.

I’m speaking of course of Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States.

And then, not soon after, that guy who wrote The Catcher in the Rye also kicked the bucket. What was his name again? It’s not that important; he might as well have died fortysomething years ago when he became a recluse. No need to get into a frenzy with the obits.

The point is this: why are the media going on about J.D. Salinger but ignoring Zinn? Of course Salinger is important, and Zinn has had plenty of write-ups, but as far as coverage goes — I’m going by aldaily and Google News — this is just lopsided.

On the surface, you can’t really compare them. One was a novelist and the other an activist/historian. They gave us different perspectives on the world through different genres of communication. But Zinn did have an influential role in the US; he was a part of our contemporary history as much as a revisionist of the history that preceded it.  Yeah, he was a pinko, but one would think that, at a minimum, the media could assess his place in academia and measure the debates concerning his relevance — instead of briefly noting his passing and hurrying on to ponder the vast mystery of what Salinger was writing all that time.

(Come on people: drop the fantasies. Salinger wasn’t writing anything of interest. If he was, it’ll take about 339 years to clear the legal hurdles to get it published, and then we’ll discover it was all dreck. At least Howard Zinn was still writing stuff up until his death.)

I do hope I have the wrong impression. Let’s see how the stories of these remembrances develop.


Written by cwmote

January 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm

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