Thursday, January 28, 2010

J. D. Salinger died Wednesday.

Is there anyone of my era who has not read Catcher In The RyeDidn't it grab everyone with this opening line, "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like ...?"  Didn't we all identify with Holden Caulfield, the 16-year-old student who runs away from his prep school during his Christmas break, looking for something genuine in a world full of "phonies?"  He drinks and dances and talks his way through a couple of days in the city, arriving at a moment of bittersweet joy as he watches his younger sister ride the carousel in Central Park.
The book that really stuck with me, though, was Franny and Zooey. And all because of these lines:  
"But I'll tell you a terrible secret — Are you listening to me? There isn't anyone out there who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. That includes your [g.d.] Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his cousins by the dozens. There isn't anyone anywhere that isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. Don't you know that? Don't you know that [g.d.] secret yet? And don't you know — listen to me, now — don't you know who that Fat Lady really is? . . . Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It's Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy."
Whatever these lines mean to other readers, as a performer, they have stayed with me for decades.
( [g.d.'s] removed by me - never did get used to G. being tossed around, even for literary flavor)

21 comments:

  1. I just got done e-mailing to a friend who hadn't seen the headlines yet. We exchanged ;~{ faces. You know I'm very interested in people and what makes them tick. So we have this national treasure for an author, but what was up with him and Joyce Maynard? I'd love to really understand that, and yes - I've read her book. I love your lines remembered from Franny and Zooey.

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  2. Now I suppose everyone will start picking though Salinger's bones - ahh the cult of the author.

    Do you think Salinger's reclusiveness may have helped give him iconic status? Not that he wanted it himself, but we do love a mystery, the more mysterious the better.

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  3. Like you, I read ALL of Salinger's work in my youth.

    I was kinda dumbstruck to learn that he died at age 91. 91!?!

    In my mind's eye, J.D. Salinger was eternally young.

    Funny how the mind works.

    He left a mark on me. I grieve.

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  4. I remember the quote from discussing Franny and Zooey with you at the time I read the book in English class. As I recall, my teacher said we were reading that book because Catcher had certain a certain four letter word in it and she did not want to hear about it from any of the student's parents.

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  5. I am staggered - and ashamed - to say I haven't read his work, or if I have I didn't know it was him...reading that quote though has me thinking maybe I have...maybe a lot of people have been trying very hard to write like that for some time...

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  6. Oh, Rachel ~ read it all and make you decision. Then read the bios of him. It's worth it. Time well spent.

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  7. The first book by a living writer that I had ever read in which the speech was recognisably real talk.

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  8. Strange that Salinger never spoke to me, maybe because it was a boy's world and because it was so East Coast, and I, from rural Indiana, found it different in a way that was not enticing but off-putting. His contemporaries like Roth and Bellow still do not appeal to me. His passing, like Bellow a few years ago and Updike a few months ago indicates the end of an era.

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  9. LESLIE - Speaking of what makes people tick and Joyce Maynard - Joyce and Salinger exchanged letters and phone calls and then, boom, she moved in with him. He was still married. It's weird, but they had decided they were so alike in their reclusiveness that they should escape the world together. Then she wanted children and that probably was too much like bringing in more world and society to J.D., so they split. Is that what you're referring to in your 'what was up' question? It would be like you and me, after years of emailing and commenting on each other's blogs, decide we just need to do it from the same location because we feel such commonality, except I don't want to have your baby.

    ELISABETH - I suppose you're right. There will be some bone-picking. Yes, I think reclusiveness always presents more of a challenge to the public and the media. We do love the Greta Garbo types. Like Leslie was saying, his relationship with Joyce Maynard still presents some mystery. I wonder if her memoir will spike in sales like "Catcher" has in the past 2 days.

    TODD - Yes, I do remember that conversation. Were we sitting in the basement TV room in the Abinadi home? That was a strange house. Nice in some ways, but it would have suited Salinger in its isolated location

    RACHEL - I'm with Leslie. Read them. You won't be sorry.

    DAVE - Yes, I agree about the real talk. It was stunning to me, except the swearing. I was conditioned pretty heavily against it.

    JUNE - I love your honesty and self-awareness. Like I've said before, you know who you are.

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  10. JONAS - Yes, I had him stuck in my mind's eye too. I do wonder how he died and with whom. Is it really awful to die alone? With no close connections? I wonder to whom it makes a difference...

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  11. Morning, Cookie. I know Salinger's and Joyce's story. I'd just like to understand it better. You know, I pick at "what makes people tick" like a scab on my knee. I'd just like to peel and understand the layers of phyllo dough. I'm glad you don't want to have any more children, Kass. There's another common element between us.

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  12. LOVE the new insomnia icon!

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  13. By the time I read Catcher in the Rye I was married and in college. I remember wishing that such a book had been available when I was a teenager.

    Salinger has my props not only for his wonderful book but for having the guts to live his life as he desired.

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  14. CHRISTELLA - Living life as we desire...this has really got me thinking. How many of us do this? I feel so obligated to so many things that I don't know what I would do if I were truly free to make that choice. How would I desire to live?

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  15. I agree with you, how many of us do this? I'm not sure what my life would have been if I had lived the life I desired. I'm not complaining because I have had a good life. At this point my desires are few, but I lived a lot in the way I thought others thought I should, if that makes sense.

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  16. Of course, it makes total sense. We are women.

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  17. Hi Kass! Thanks for this post, much better than mine on the same subject! I love the quotes! (And I agree with you about the swearing.) I read Catcher in the Rye in school, and it was one of the first "real" books I ever read. The reclusive aspect also fascniates me, and as a writer with some "hermit crab" tendancies myself (although I usually manage to keep them in check, with the help of my husband), I can relate.

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  18. ALANNA - There's no better or best way to honor Salinger. I appreciated reading the article you linked in your post.

    I'm glad you agree about the swearing. There are so many other ways to be 'real,' it's unnecessary and non-creative of authors to resort to foul language to convey authenticity in every instance.

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  19. Hi Kass, you are very sweet, and I thank you! Thanks for your kind words!

    I agree with you there, too, if it's part of a character's personality it's one thing, and can be shown in a way that the writer doesn't have a to write a swear word so many times.

    There are subtle ways to do things, not just swearing, but violence and gore, etc.....in moveis and in books, you can show the murderer "raising the knife", so to speak, but you don't have to show the stabbing and the result, the reader (or viewer) can figure that out for his or herself.

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  20. I have to declare allegiance to Catcher, though I've heard a couple people this week saying they actually preferred F&Z. It didn't appeal to me. Maybe I should re-read it now, from my "mature" pov.
    Love that cover, by the way! Never saw that one.
    cheers

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  21. S.J. - I think I like F&Z because I hate to be on band wagons.

    As for a mature pov, I kind of suspect you were born with one.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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