J. D. Salinger died a year ago (well, a year ago yesterday). I suppose he probably would have liked it better if nobody noticed, but lots of people did, including me. Like many young people, I was smitten with Catcher In The Rye, and it was probably the most influential book I read as a kid (maybe a tie with A Separate Peace by John Knowles). Mr. Salinger became famous, and maybe even rich, after Catcher was published, and the book sells about 250,000 copies a year to this day. He became a recluse (at least as regards the pubic eye) after fame arrived, retreating to his home in New Hampshire. A new biography has been published: J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski. I won’t read the biography (for a reason, but I admit I generally don’t read biographies anyway). Mr. Salinger wanted his privacy, and I respect that. Of course I have my own spin on privacy for people who have done something notable or otherwise become famous or notorious (or for the rest of humanity too, I suppose).
My spin? I’m just not interested in famous folk (an author in today’s discussion). I think the work they do should “speak for itself.” I don’t want to know what inspired them, where they went to school, how they decided to pursue their chosen career, etc. I don’t care what they eat, where they live, or what they name their dog. I have no idea what I’d talk to any “celebrity” about if I chanced to have the opportunity. I don’t want autographs, nor a picture with any of them. I don’t have the faintest idea why anyone would think any differently about it than I do. I don’t fault anyone for feeling differently than me, I just don’t get it. At bottom, I don’t have any interest in the personal lives of anyone who isn’t a part of my life.
So I like to think that Mr. Salinger was motivated, at least in part, by the desire to let his writings stand on their own, and he found that, some folks being what they are, he had to isolate himself to make it so. So as I said above, I’m not going to read Mr. Slawenski’s book, or any other biography of J.D. Salinger, and I hope nobody else does either.