I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was in college. J.D. Salinger’s book, published in 1951, has sold more than 65 million copies and still sells 250,000 a year. Catcher became required reading for a whole generation. The antihero of the book, Holden Caulfield, remains a cult hero for some.
As soon as you hear the title, you can probably guess what kind of film The Book of Eli is going to be. Yes, it is the story about a man named Eli (played by Denzel Washington, who is also one of the film’s producers), who has a book; it is also about the Bible, which in this case seems to provide not a set of beliefs but simply the hope that humanity has a future.
Things go unnoticed around here while we do the important stuff the singing praying sermonizing baptizing. We don’t read the instructions want to get on with it insert the batteries push the button watch the screen light up. Script stage directions steps one two three are all fine print we think, or don’t until we find ourselves at home watching rain soak the garden and notice that the screen has gone dark. When is it that we turn to face the back of the church? Do we stand or sit at the Psalm and is there anything at all about bowing as the cross makes its leisurely progress? What words are to be said while earth is cast upon the coffin and who was it after all who was supposed to meet the body
This was a gale that formed a fist, a punch turning into a full kick that almost sent me flying downhill. The Greek word translates as “a movement of air.” But this was karate; I loved the force of it, its full release and enthusiasm.
In my tedium, I wish I might keel over when that other spirit blows, or that that fierce, holy breath would fill me to almost-bursting, a red balloon buoyant with air, pressure inside and out, and no strings attached.
One morning this summer I was basking in the sun With the brother closest to me in age. We had been Brought up almost as twins but then took disparate Roads, as twins do. He was sobbing and I was near Tears and the ocean was muttering. I heard a heron. We had been having the most naked open talk we’d Had in many years. I wanted to tell him how deeply I loved him but words are just so weak and shallow. So I talked about the forsythia bush we used to hide Under together. It was the safest place on the planet. The light was always amazing in there and it wasn’t Ever muddy somehow and you were draped in gold. It was a hut a huddle a tent a canopy a cave a refuge. Sometimes you have to use a thing to say something Else. We do this all the time. We talk sideways, yes? But sidelong is often the only road that gets to where You know you need to go. So much means lots more Than it seems like it could mean. Tears, for example.
John Coleman, who died recently, presided over Haverford College during the tumultuous Vietnam War era. He sympathized with students’ antiwar protests but also tried to channel the antiwar movement in constructive ways. When students considered burning the American flag, Coleman placed a washing machine at the center of the campus and encouraged students to wash the flag instead. He persuaded dozens of college presidents to sign an antiwar statement. On sabbaticals he took blue-collar jobs to explore the gap between academics and workers (Inside Higher Ed, September 12).