J.D. Salinger RIP

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KB
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Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:09 pm Post

J.D. Salinger died yesterday. I don't suppose it will be considered by many as exactly a huge loss to literature given that he stopped publishing anything over fifty years ago, but still, I feel I have to pay my respects in some way as he was my absolute favourite author in my early twenties. Of course, it's not difficult to read all of his published works - a grand total of four extant books (one novel, one collection of short stories and two books containing two longer stories each). But I was such a fan that I tracked down much of the difficult-to-get stuff, the stories he had refused to be reprinted. On a visit to the US I went to a library and accessed the microfiche archives of the New Yorker to get a copy of his last-ever story ("Hapworth 16, 1924" - disappointing, as it made Seymour Glass seem an annoyingly precocious brat, quite at odds with his morose but seraphic portrayal in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish", and if that is the direction Salinger's writing was taking then maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to withdraw and let readers appreciate his past achievements).

But even more obsessive, when I did my MA and had access to the British library, I spent two weeks hand-copying The Inverted Forest - a rare bootlegged collection of 22 of Salinger's stories that he has never allowed to be republished (I'm pretty sure the book itself was illegal, so I'm not sure what it was doing in the British Library but I'm glad it was there). I sincerely hope his family allow these stories to be republished now, even though it may be against his wishes, as they are wonderful. "A Young Girl in 1921 with No Waist At All" remains one of my favourite ever short stories. I don't know why. Not much happens - it's just beautiful, somehow, and whilst stories like "Teddy" seemed profound to me in my early twenties, it is these less ostentatiously Zen stories that still resound with me now.

So, thank you Mr Salinger. If the stories are to believed, you may well have been the grumpiest man alive. You may have eaten frozen peas and raw sheep, drank your own urine, sent love letters to Winona Ryder and had a penchant for lawsuits that Apple would envy, and I have no doubt that you would have despised me for my fanboyism, but I thank you all the same. For Catcher in the Rye and Holden Caulfield with his poor broken hand and his cool sister Phoebe. For the Glass family, with their tendency to take long baths make phone calls to each other from within the same house to discuss Eastern philosophy. And for making me really think about the meaning of the words on the page, how a broken record could be a metaphor for a dead brother.

So I don't care what the naysayers say (they say nay). To me, J.D. Salinger deserves his place as a Great Author of the Twentieth Century, and I hope the kids of my kids are taking university courses on him and Mr Vonnegut in forty or firty years' time. I am sorry that he's gone.

All the best,
Keith

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Thu Jan 28, 2010 11:58 pm Post

I agree.
Salinger's writing has moved me like few other authors have.
A very strong, lonely voice. Someone I would have loved to have as a friend.
Or, better put: someone I feel has given me, a reader among many, as much as a best friend could ever give.

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Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:20 pm Post

Like Vonnegut, Salinger has a very special place in my reading favourites. I couldn't agree more with your opinions, Keith. Catcher in the Rye speaks to me like very few other books have done.
J

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Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:45 am Post

I think even Salinger might have enjoyed this recent post in The Onion:

Bunch Of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger

CORNISH, NH—In this big dramatic production that didn’t do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. “He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers,” said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don’t have to look at them for four years. “There will never be another voice like his.” Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it’s just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.

http://www.theonion.com/content/index

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Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:32 am Post

Ha, brilliant! My favourite Salinger pastiche was a short story by Malcolm Bradbury in Who Do You Think You Are? It is written in the style of Salinger and narrated from the perspective of the janitor of the New York apartment block in which the Glass family lives. If you recall, in Zooey the apartment is in the middle of being decorated - the janitor spends most of Bradbury's story lamenting how he can't get into the apartment to finish his job because Franny is having a tizzy fit and refuses to budge from the sofa, and no one will speak to him because they're all on the phone to each other.