J.D. Salinger died today. Dr Cheryl Cavanaugh was my English teacher for 2.5 years of high school, and had hoped to see what Salinger had been working on for the past 3 decades. Dr C was the teacher who gave me space to find my analytical voice, and my passion for fighting with words.
She died of cancer in June after my senior year of high school. That year, having discovered that the cancer she had fought off twice was now back, she talked about what authors she was looking forward to meeting in heaven. She wanted to ask them question–perhaps ask Austen about how she dressed Elizabeth (Dr C did her dissertation of 19th century women’s clothing) or Twain about his time on the river or the real Huck.
But there was one author she wanted to see die in her life-time–J.D. Salinger. She wanted to read what he had been writing for the past 30 years, for the joy of reading good writing but also to tease out why he stopped publishing. I believe, in any heaven Dr C would want to live in, there is a sort of universal Library of Congress where the souls can read all works, published or unpublished. I bet she’s known forever what Salinger has been doing these decades.
Sending it out to the aether: I hope you’re happy Dr C; I hope you are getting all the books you want. We remember and love you.
“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.” from Toni Morrison’s Nobel Lecture, which Dr C passed out in my last course with her, and which I gave to my tutoring students today.