JD Salinger,January 1, 1919 January 27, 2010)
ME AND J.D. SALINGER
Somewhere in the ’80’s a NY newspaper carried a story that JD Salinger’s house in New Hampshire had burnt to the ground due to a faulty smokestack. Well, it kind of touched me. I was busy working on the best American novel myself. I looked at my own meager fireplace (which somehow had never set my old carriage house in Brooklyn aflame) and I looked at my typewriter and reams of paper filled with blackset hieroglyphics and I looked at my hands and maybe I even looked out the window and in a mirror then my purse. I’ve had some of my life in robust income, this was not one of those times. But I had five bucks and so I handwrote a note to Mr Salinger and wrote out an envelope with his name and the town’s name and the state on it and mailed it to him.
I said something like I was a writer too and felt bad for his loss and I also had a fireplace and this was the best I could do but I hoped 5 bucks would help with the re-build fund. And thanks for Catcher in the Rye, and Franny and Zooey. Salinger had pretty much vanished from the radar and I’d pictured him kind of lost and alone and poor and now with a house, and his always house there, no longer around him then I forgot about it.
About a week later I got a plain envelope in the mail with no return address, just mine in the middle, typed I think. I opened it and my Salinger 5 fell out of a plain piece of paper that without anything but the one brief paragraph typed and no tomfoolery hello or goodbye or signature were his words, “The story was completely untrue.” Maybe something like thanks anyway, or I’m okay, but I’m not sure about that. And if I still have the letter I’d be surprised, and I don’t have the five, but I might go hunting it down in the multitude of portfolios and saved correspondence and drawings, and find it tucked in. Sometimes writers just don’t want help from anybody.
(First sentence of Catcher in the Rye). “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, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
“Though not everyone, teachers and librarians especially, was sure what to make of it, “Catcher” became an almost immediate best seller, and its narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, a teenager newly expelled from prep school, became America’s best-known literary truant since Huckleberry Finn.” (NY Times obit)
And there’s a revival of maybe public Salinger based on newly discovered/unpublished manuscripts and the promise of seeing them in print by 2015. I think his shock and awe to my generation was what the hell have we got ourselves into and how to we get out of it and this guy is writing like my secret conversations with my brain and nobody addressed the moaning wail of teenager agony before. Hello compatriot. Thanks, JD.