Oct 302013

Another difficulty of the project on which I have embarked, is that of finding folktale and exemplar full enough of life in the twentieth century. Who are our heroes, the ones that say something of universal value, or that touch a root nerve so deep the great oak must shiver? Who, from our last century, do we, as Americans, carry within us? The process is made more difficult yet with the resignation of writer and artist from the hero-making business. Now, I hate jingoism and smarmy claptrap as deeply as any man (except when singing patriotic songs on the Fourth of July); but, the forging of national identity–even the search for that identity–is a frowned upon activity, scoffed at in intellectual journals, and dismissed by the popular press. The mass media prefer to have heroes as disposable as fashions, and for the same reason: to increase sales. The moral curiosity of a Hawthorne, seeking the expiation of sins, or the commemorative wish of a Francis Scott Key to recall battle-sacrifice with a song are not the norm anymore. Our bibles are printed on toilet paper, our national ideals become ephemeral. In any case, the guilty self-exploration of Holden Caulfield seems to have stuck for some fifty years, and I am claiming his adolescent angst as one of our defining visions of ourselves to have emerged and added itself to the roll call of American heroes. Holden is a bit symbolist and fin-de-si

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