Sunday, September 15, 2013

J.D. Salinger is back, though he’s still dead

Just when you thought it was safe to swim back into the literary waters of the 1950s

J.D. Salinger
     J.D Salinger died in 2010 after staying out of the public eye for over half a century, which didn’t stop various lovers and other writers from dropping tantalizing tales about what he
was doing (mainly writing, but not publishing, and having affairs with younger women).
Letters to One of His Lovers,
Joyce Maynard*
Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less because, literary heathen that I am, I thought The Catcher in the Rye was an underdeveloped whiner and Holden Caulfield an entitled twerp.  He yammers on about phonies, but he never bothers to ask what made them that way in order to survive adolescence and negotiate adulthood.  I think that Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a more keenly observed and broadly compassionate examination of adolescence and outcasts.  

     I’ve kept my Salinger opinions to myself, especially in college when practically everyone had read and loved Catcher and one friend could quote passages of ‘For Esmé – with Love and Squalor’ with moist eyes.  Now we find out that Salinger may have been a little uncomfortably close to his model for Esmé.  Couldn’t this all have been laid to rest with him?  Well, not if you’re a publisher or media type looking to make a buck (or many more) from the treasure trove of newly discovered Salinger works.

     The ultimate irony is that Salinger didn’t destroy these works when he had decades to do so and that it will be publishing ‘phonies’ who will make a ton from them.  Ah well!  It’s a matter of taste, I realize.  If an undiscovered McCullers or Anthony Burgess novel should appear, I’d dive right in.

*Photo credit: EPA

Hmmm…sounds a little staged to me.

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