The entirely predictable post about J.D. Salinger.
29 January 2010
A late post today, and a short one, as I have been even lazier than usual today.
You know, I'm a little bummed about the passing of J.D. Salinger. Not just because I loved The Catcher in the Rye (which I did; I read it in college* and still have my old copy, which I earnestly highlighted on the second or third pass through so I could easily find all my favorite Holden moments), but because the man was such a puzzle. Have you ever read his novel Franny and Zooey? No kidding, along with Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It, it is one of my primary secular religious texts. His stories about the Glass family are also wonders of family dynamics; I have multiple older siblings myself, and although I love them all (as Franny does, in Franny and Zooey) sometimes they can be a little over-interested (in the most kindly meant ways, of course). If I hadn't loved Holden, my love for the Glass family would have made me a Salinger fan for life anyway.
But it did always puzzle me that the man who could write so beautifully and yes, profoundly**, could also be such a jerk. It is probably not fair of me to think he's a jerk, and I haven't even read his daughter Margaret's memoir (Dream Catcher, which evidently gives some scary evidence of his jerk nature as well), but I did read Joyce Maynard's memoir about her ten-month love affair with him titled At Home in the World, and that was quite the eye-opener. I can't even remember what he did that was so jerkish, but I do remember thinking after I read it that he may not have been the kindest man.
Anyway. That's all I've got. Rest in peace, anyway, J.D. In other news, Howard Zinn (author of A People's History of the United States) died this week as well. I don't know very much about him, but I can steer you to a fabulous and recent interview he did with Bill Moyers.
*Thinking about The Catcher in the Rye makes me miss mass culture a little bit too. Remember whenever you saw the red paperback copy with its yellow title, you knew just what book it was? In fifty years, what will be the book we all, even high school and college students, will have read? The Da Vinci Code just isn't quite the same.
**I'm pulling out all the big lit crit words today.