If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is that J.D. Salinger died today…is the first thing I read on a blog post on January 27th 2010 that told me Salinger had died.
Author of The Catcher in the Rye and numerous short stories, he became a complete recluse after hitting the literary jackpot with Catcher in the Rye. A coming of age novel told from the viewpoint of angst ridden Holden Caulfield.
Someone recently leaked three short stories written by Salinger online, and it caused a bit of fuss before the website removed them. Not before someone paid $60 to read what turned out to be a scanned copy of a short story which was donated by Salinger to Princeton library and only to be read under supervision. He was fussy like that but I have never understood the obsession people have with J.D. Salinger.
I read Catcher in the Rye years ago, long after it was written, I also read From Esmé With Love and Squalor a few years after that and never really got all the commotion about any of his work, though I got the phony vibe, the falseness that is only amplified in the years that have passed since he wrote it but I never had that this book changed my life that a lot of Salinger fans say, for me that was Lord of the Flies, now there is a book that tells you all you need to know about life, but I assumed because I was reading Catcher years after it was written that it was not my generation, and therefore, the whole thing just passed me by.
If you wanted a more updated version of The Catcher in the Rye then the Booker Prize winning Vernon God Little by D.B.C Pierre, or any of D.B.C Pierre’s work, is what you need to read. Although such is the nature of modern coming of age novels, that even though it was released in 2002, it is probably outdated by now, it is still a darkly funny story of adolescent angst and the reality television generation. It won’t change your life but it will make you laugh, unless your sense of humour grew a tumour and died from it, in which case you won’t laugh but will probably gently shake your head and mutter under your breath about the state of literature….so yeah, I really like Pierre’s work, and I think after Vernon God Little his work only improved, though some critics disagree, but feck ‘em, Pierre is a comedy and philosophical genius.
I have never quite understood people who did not understand how Salinger retreated from the success of Catcher; to me, it was quite simple, he wrote a novel about preserving innocence, it became the most banned and censored book probably of all time. It highlighted what he thought was false about life and humanity in general only to be surrounded by the phony people he loathed in the first place, he also ended up with a fan who murdered John Lennon, carried Catcher with him to the scene of the crime and claimed the book told him to kill Lennon. In fact after shooting Lennon he sat down on the steps and read Catcher in the Rye while waiting for the police to arrive.
In his statement to police, Chapman stated, “I’m sure the big part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil.”
Salinger had two options: he either embraced all that celebrity and glamour and become the type of asshole he so accurately wrote about, or he fecked off into the woods to be by himself and meditate. He chose the second option. You can fault his writing, but I don’t think you can fault the guy for standing by his beliefs.