Jan 29, 2010

J D Salinger: alone at last, the grumpy old goat

“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.' — The Onion
I'll be honest with you: I thought he was already dead. It's one consequence of being a recluse, I guess. You're not really showing up for your readers. I find it hard to thrill to the more "mythic" consequences of his withdrawal from the world. It was a pathological act, not a mythic one. He couldn't stand being in the spotlight, the way some people cant stand being complimented. It's just self absorbtion, for the most part. You back away from a compliment enough times, all you do is compel your poor interlocutor to repeat it. A few years back, I found myself asking, "Is J D Salinger alive or dead?" I honestly didn't know. Upon further investigation I found out that he was still alive but somehow the information never stuck. You know the way certain facts just don't want to be learned? I used to have a kitchen cupboard which opened the opposite of the way you thought it was going to. No matter how many times I committed the right way to memory, no matter how many times I reverse-engineered little mnemonics to help me (its not the first way you think, reverse your first impulse, etc) I would always foul it up. Same with Salinger. I feel like I've had to remind myself he's alive so many times I've already mourned him. I'll probably start forgetting he's dead now. I'll wake up and go: I wonder if Salinger is ever going to change his mind about all those manuscripts he keeps in his shed....

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