J.D. Salinger

A Rose for Holden Caulfield and J.D. Salinger.

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.

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One response to “J.D. Salinger

  • Mrs. Chili

    Mr. Chili and I were JUST THIS MORNING talking about this! Creepy…

    Anyway, our conversation was about the fact that I’m trying to get Anne Rice (she of the Interview with the Vampire books) to Skype into my classroom in March. Mr. Chili asked me if I’d be able to handle it – he knows that, when we first started dating, I was a very big fan of Ms. Rice’s books. I told him that I could absolutely handle it; I think that I feel very much the same as you do about “famous” people. I admire their work, but I don’t really feel anything akin to being star-struck (though I DO take interest in their craft. In fact, I want to see if you can someday arrange it so we can have dinner with Matt; I’d love to talk to him about his writing process). The class will read Interview and we’ll talk with Ms. Rice about what writers do – how they come up with ideas, how they compile and organize, and what kind of learning and commitment are required to do justice to one’s art. I am damned and determined that it will NOT become a fan club meeting. Ugh.

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