Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nothing but a Memory

The world shook today, but not in quite the same way it did a couple of weeks ago. This was more of communal shudder of the grim variety; JD Salinger died, aged 91. You may not have read any of his books - I haven't, though I still want to - but if you know anything about books you know The Catcher in the Rye is perhaps one of the most finely written books of the twentieth century.

This blog post is something like jumping on the bandwagon - everyone is talking about Salinger and the as yet uncertain reasons regarding his passing. I haven't bothered reading more than the first link I saw, and that was only to confirm that it wasn't just an internet rumour.

At times like this, people often come out and say "He's nothing but a memory now." Those people are wrong. A fantastic writer by the name of Jeremy C Shipp taught me that in his book Vacation. Nothing and memory don't belong in the same sentence, he says. He's right. We are more than a memory when we pass on, and we're more than a body void of life and an idea of a soul fluttering away to destination unknown.

We are the sum of our accomplishments and failures. We are every word we ever wrote, every word we ever spoke, every sound we uttered or screamed and every sigh of relief we make. We are the people we loved, and the people we hated, the ones we hardly knew and the ones we never knew. We are our actions and our thoughts. And a memory. We are always a memory, but never just a memory. And we're always people. Dead or alive, we are always people.

The literary world, and the friends and family, and friends of family, will all mourn the death of the reclusive writer who chose not to publish for the last half of his life. But he never really needed to. His voice, his perfect literary achievement, was already out there in the world, the modern classic, the cult fiction piece, the fantastic piece of coming of age literature; it is perhaps one of the greatest books ever written, and I'm yet to get past two pages of it. Does that mean it was bad? Not at all. It means I wasn't in the right mind set for the book.

As a homage to the late author, I encourage you to give his book a read, and pay your own silent respects for him. The world of books lost one of its finest in the craft.

RIP JD Salinger, the Man, the Memory and the Life Lived.

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