Friday, June 20, 2014

Neil Diamond -- "Solitary Man" (1966)

I'll be what I am
A solitary man

When I was young -- which was a long, long time ago -- I had this fantasy about living a solitary life that went something like this:

I'd bum a ride, and then I'd bum another one, and another one, and another one, and in a few days I'd be somewhere out west where it was very pretty and sunny and where nobody'd know me and I'd get a job.  I figured I could get a job at a filling station somewhere, putting gas and oil in people's cars.  I didn't care what kind of a job it was, though.  Just so people didn't know me and I didn't know anybody.  

I'd build a little cabin with the money I made and live there for the rest of my life.  I'd build it right near the woods, but not right in them, because I'd want it to be sunny all the time.  I'd cook all my own food.

If you've read the late J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye recently, you'll recognize that I stole that fantasy from the book's protagonist, Holden Caulfield.

Caulfield spends a lot of time complaining about phonies.  As I recall, his character really resonated with me and my friends when we read the book in high school.  But when I read Catcher in the Rye recently, Salinger struck me as being as big a phony as anyone in his book.

I think we're supposed to feel sympathetic toward Caulfield because a lot of the students and teachers and headmasters at the various boarding schools he's attended are phonies, and because Caulfield is devoted to his little sister, cherishes the memories of his dead little brother, and wants his older brother to stop writing movie scripts in Hollywood and devote himself to writing real literature -- like The Great Gatsby and Return of the Native and Romeo and Juliet, which Caulfield much prefers to dumb movies.

J. D. Salinger
But Caulfield just bored me, to tell the truth.  Also, he struck me as a major f*ck-up.  I have no patience for f*ck-ups.  Holden Caulfield needed to get his sh*t together and apply himself instead of being a tiresome little whiner wearing a stupid hunting cap.

Catcher in the Rye is a pretty easy read.  It's not like Richard FariƱa's Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, another novel that was a great favorite of self-styled intellectuals like me back in the sixties.

I tried to re-read Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me a couple of years ago and had to quit about halfway through -- it was an incoherent mess.  

I'm planning to re-read Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, which I thought it was the greatest novel ever written when I read it in college.  But I have a feeling I'm going to find it even more unreadable.

Holden Caulfield's stupid cap
Catcher in the Rye is not unreadable -- not at all.  It's just pointless and very dated.  I couldn't work up much interest in Caulfield's plight.  Get over yourself, Holden.

Like Holden Caulfield, I am something of a solitary man -- especially when I'm riding my bike on Cape Cod.

How can you tell I'm a solitary man at heart?  Just look at the pictures I post.

There are pictures of the buildings I see on my rides:

Brooks Academy (Harwich, MA)
There are pictures of the trails I ride on:

Cape Cod Rail Trail (Wellfleet, MA)
There are pictures of the lakes and ponds I ride by, and even pictures of the bikes I ride:

Seymour Pond (Brewster, MA)
But there are no people in any of the pictures, are there?

Neil Diamond was a songwriter before he was a singer-songwriter.  "Solitary Man" was his first hit as a recording artist.  It stalled out at #55 on the Billboard "Hot 100" when it was first released in 1966.  It did better when it was re-released in 1970, climbing to #21.  

Here's "Solitary Man":

Click below to buy this song from Amazon:

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