Good morning, people! Lotsa death this week!
First: Howard Zinn, influential leftist historian, and Louis Auchincloss, literary chronicler of the Upper East Side elite, died. Yes, I almost forgot, too! Because J.D. Salinger, the highest common divisor of American letters, is dead. My colleague Ted Scheinman collected some of the Web’s more interesting tributes. One that he mentioned that I’ll single out is former CP staffer Mike Riggs‘ account of driving to Cornish, N.H., and eventually finding his way onto Salinger’s property:
The rest of the pilgrimage was spent smoking pot, listening to good tunes, and playing a game we created called the Salinger Hypothetical, which one of us would start when the others were feeling like the trip was a waste of time. Working off the trivia we knew about Salinger—the pee-drinking, the refusal to evacuate his home during a massive fire, the regular visits to Friendly’s for ice cream, the obsession with young women, the interest in homeopathic medicine—we psyched ourselves out by creating even stranger Salingers. Every sentence began with “What if Salinger” and ended in an absurd theory: What if Salinger hasn’t cut his fingernails in 50 years? What if Salinger’s home is staffed by Southeast Asian slave labor? What if Salinger answers the door in a dress? What if Salinger has been dead for years, and his wife too, and no one knows because he’s a recluse? What if Salinger answers the door in a Marilyn Monroe wig? What if Salinger is a huge pothead? What is Salinger answers the door naked? What if Salinger doesn’t remember having been a famous writer?
The indispensable Click Opera—-which is ending soon! A topic for another day!—-looks at how Salinger (and then Philip Larkin) introduced swearing to Anglo-American literature, which Salinger also assaulted by calling out Dickens in the first sentence of The Catcher in the Rye:
You can read lives and obituaries of Salinger and all that Wikipedia crap elsewhere; I’m interested in the word “crap”. It sits like a sprung trap right there in the first sentence of The Catcher in the Rye, the first word that really establishes the tone, the snare that catches our attention. If, in the glib formula, Salinger really did “invent the teenager”, it’s that surly, dismissive, deliberately anti-literary use of “crap” which starts the process. Like Prometheus making a man out of mud, Salinger creates the teenager from “crap”.
But “literary” and and “street” have since reached an accord, Click Opera blogger Momus writes: “In a world in which informal has become the new formal, jeans and rock are the universal signifiers of normative respectability, couture kowtows to pret and the street is the new salon, the ‘subversive’ thing to do is to resurrect and re-invent the maligned category of ‘the literary.’ “
Oh, and: Miramax shut down! The film studio founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein that won four best-picture Oscars and distributed the epochal indie aped by a generation of film students, was shuttered yesterday by its parent company, Disney.
Also in the breeze:
– !!!: In March, Slumberland Records will release an anthology of the influential D.C. indie-pop outfit Black Tambourine that sports 16 songs—-that would be six (count ’em!) more tracks than the Complete Recordings release from 1999. Included therein: Four newly recorded (!?) versions of songs the band played back in the day, including covers of Buddy Holly and Suicide. Here’s one of the group’s best originals, “For Ex-Lovers Only”:[audio:http://www.forcefieldpr.com/blacktamexlovers.mp3]
– Christie‘s says the art market will bounce back this year. Sorry billionaires, no more Lucian Freuds at bargain-basement prices!
– Yesterday I learned the true meaning of “captive audience.”
– Brightest Young Things premieres a song from the Four Horsemen, a new project featuring members of U.S. Royalty and Matthew Hemerlein. It is lovely! Some commenters in this crazy-ass post probably won’t like it! My only gripe? The song’s use of the phrase “from whence.” This is not correct! Saying “from whence” is essentially saying “from from where”—-which is, y’know, just whack. Last year, Emmy the Great made the same mistake. Take a listen!
See? Plaintive folk song falls victim to poor grammatical choices! Kids, don’t let this happen to you! Have a great weekend!