America and I suppose the world lost two giants over the last couple of days. By far the most famous of the two was JD Salinger author of one of the most popular books ever written ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ with this book he created one of literature’s greatest heroes Holden Caulfield: the original mixed up teenager who seemed to speak for every angst ridden stumbling: fumbling! would be young lothario of the second half of the 19 00’s. like most young men who read the book in those heady rebellious days "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!" ( Wordswoth, OK calm down) I found that it had wormed it’s way into my consciousness in a way that I would never be able to shake off: here I am some 45 years later and I still feel that I know him.
Salinger was of course "loosely wrapped" which made him even more 'the man' a famous recluse and: whether he did this deliberately or not: I don’t know but: his famous hermit life style and his sometimes violent and aggressive contempt for the media as well as his general eccentric behaviour made him even more famous, a kind of literary Howard Hughes or Greta Garbo if you will. The world now waits to find out what he was doing over all these years because he published very little after ‘Catcher’ stories abound that he has 15/16 unpublished manuscripts: we wait as well to find out just how eccentric he was and what kind of life he led over all that time when he refused to be seen or spoken to by the media or the public: a fascinating situation.
The second person I refer to was Howard Zinn: an American giant in the true sense: I have been conscious of his dignified and gracious presence against the backdrop of most of the struggles of the same second half of the 19 00’s. The marginalised and voiceless people of the USA and the world, the underdogs and the poor had Howard Zinn by their side in every struggle that they fought. He was part of a bomber crew in the war over Europe; an experience which made him question the conventions which governed American society. He went to college after the war and went on to have a magnificent career as a radical voice of the left and an American historian: spoken of in the same breath as Noam Chomski who was his great friend.
Zinn can be found in the reports of the struggles for women’s rights: the desegregation of the South: the Anti Vietnam war and every other progressive issue which people campaigned for through that turbulent period. He could fill any hall he agreed to speak at right up to his death at 87 just 2 days ago: he never stopped campaigning and never gave up the fight he was an inspiration to all those who seek justice and peace: he was vehemently anti war but never a pacifist: he never sought the easy way.
Luckily: unlike Salinger: Zinn does not leave us wondering if there is more to come. His output was prolific: books; essays: fiction as well as copious recordings in print: radio and television of him debating: lecturing and teaching: a charismatic intelligent passionate human being: a tribute to his great country: he represented the kind of America that I hope we will someday see: I urge you to take the time and make the effort to learn about this great man: a genuinely great American: Google and U Tube are good places to start.