January 31, 2010

J.D. Salinger in the New Yorker

Yes, he's dead. Not that it makes much difference when you think about it. For a man who disappeared from view--at least in the "I want to be with my adoring fans sense"--decades ago, and whose writing disappeared with him, people sure make a fuss.

But that's not to say he couldn't write. Hell, even if you don't like The Catcher in the Rye, you can't take away from its impact on American culture--its ability to speak to the disillusioned on a massive scale. I assume Salinger lived off of the income from this one book alone, as it continues to sell thousands of copies every year.

If you want to see what else he wrote, you're better off heading over to the New Yorker's JD Salinger Archives, where he published thirteen short stories from 1945-1961. I haven't read through them all yet, but it's always a treat when rarities are posthumously offered for public consumption.

I'm sure Salinger would have consulted his lawyers already, trying to find a way to prevent such an affront to his good name--which is what he seemed to consider any effort to circulate his work.

But what a way to create demand. Tell the masses they can't have something and that's precisely what they scramble to get. And you have to admire a man who carried so much disdain for those who wanted what he had to offer. Can you imagine writing something like Catcher and then dealing with the continuous aftermath of disenfranchised youths making pilgrimages to your front door? I'd become a recluse too.

Or maybe that's part of the myth. There are plenty of accounts that indicate Salinger was not the recluse the rest of the world wanted him to be. He probably just got sick and damn tired of being hounded--maybe felt his work was being exploited somehow (I don't know). So he became solitary, which is cool. He wasn't a jerk or a hermit. People in his town knew him--and protected him too. It's an important distinction: solitary vs. seclusion.

But none of that matters now.


Sam said...

Check out the Onion: "Millions of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger." Priceless.

Harry Tournemille said...