Friday, January 29, 2010


Thanks, JD

Much is being written about the passing of the author of the Catcher in the Rye. When I was in high school and wanted to do a book report on it, I had to get a note from Mom, saying that it was OK with her. It was that controversial.

Now it's required reading in many a high school English curriculum.

I loved that novel. But like any true author-fan, I loped right along to Salinger's other books, Nine Stories, Franny & Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters, and Seymour, an Introduction. It was Franny and Zooey that sealed my lifelong connection to his writing.

I loved Salinger's wit, the verbal stunt-pilot that he was. The beaverboard full of quotations in Zooey turned me on to everybody from Ring Lardner to Kafka to Epictetus to Issa. I faithfully tracked down Zen koans and the Bhagavad-Gita on Salinger's say-so. I even nicknamed my mother Bessie after Bessie Glass, the chicken-soup serving matriarch of the Glass Family.

When I moved to Vermont, I learned that I lived about 15 minutes from Salinger's home, the exact whereabouts of which were carefully guarded by his fellow residents in Cornish, New Hampshire. Much has been made of his reclusive nature, as if he'd morphed into a literary Howard Hughes--paranoid, miserly, and wizened, with long and filthy fingernails.

Not true. He simply didn't want to strut around like the literary lion he could have been. He lived in harmony with his neighbors, went to local church suppers, and married a very nice lady who taught quilting at the senior center till JD became quite old and needed more of her care. His fellow townspeople enjoyed helping him with his need for privacy and sent people seeking an audience with The Great Man at his home on many a wild goose chase. He continued to write, but not for publication... simply for the joy of writing itself.

So here's to you, JD. Thanks for introducing me to the wisdom of the East, the intersection between philosophy and humor, and the joys of living authentically in the self. You saved my adolescent bacon and prepared me for further reading as an adult.

Not a bad legacy... if you want to know the truth.

p.s. Lillian Ross, a good friend of his for 50 years, remembers him in the latest New Yorker.

Wouldn't it be great if his wodow released some of his unpublished stuff now that he's gone?
I'l love to read his take on contemporary society.
I sort of think that she would honor whatever wishes he had. He spoke negatively about publishing--as a sort of invasion of privacy.

There is the implied "public" in publishing, isn't there?

Colleen, his widow, has asked locally for privacy as she deals with her loss.
i love that the townspeople would send the curious on wild goose chases. it sounds like a hallmark movie that everyone would shake their head at and say, 'yeah, right, like that would ever happen!' i like knowing that it really did.
Funny how the idea of millions in windfall dollars might make any elderly widow rethink things...
Just sayin'.

lol verification word:
Yeah, but since Catcher still sells heavily each year (all those copies going to English Depts. across the nation) Colleen should be well taken care of.

Salinger may have selected someone else to administer his literary estate.
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