Sunday, January 01, 2006

A New Year's Grab Bag

Jerome David (J.D) Salinger is 87 today. Yippee.

** Note to J.D: So you think you're still the smokin' hot stuff, do ya? Think the photographers are still waiting in the bushes outside the A&P or wherever you go to get your Polydent, prune juice and bananas? Well forget it, bucko! The crowds went home a few years ago after you reneged on the last-chance deal to re-publish that old novella that wasn't all it was hyped to be when it came out the first time. You've totally overplayed that whole 'mysterious recluse' thing for over three decades and now you're just OLD. Old and--presumably--alone.

There was a time, my friend, when you had but to let a handwritten grocery list slip from your fingers on a public street and a dozen fans would humiliate themselves to grab it as a souvenir. People were going through your TRASH...just to see the crumpled clues to your most recent project. Hey!! I even gave my youngest son the first name of Holden. No one was immune!

Of course, you're not entirely forgotten. Sure...people still talk about Catcher in the Rye or Nine Stories and there's always a little buzz about what you've been doing for the last forty years up there in your secluded New England house. Diehard fans insist that your studio is filled to the rafters with spiral notebooks that chronicle the continued antics of the fabulous Glass family, most of whom must certainly be card-carrying members of AARP by now. Or dead. Maybe that's the case, but I don't think so.

You know what I think? I think you overbid your whole Marlene Dietrich "I want to be alone" crap and now that's exactly what you are. I think you spend your days drinking Ensure and watching reruns of "Murder, She Wrote". I don't think you've written anything, yet you still want to star in the role of hostile recluse who just can't get a moment to himself.
You're gutless! You wouldn't have had to write another stinking word your whole life...just go out on the interview circuit and speak with the literarily-crazed fans who live to recite whole sections of Zooey's dialog back to you. Hell, look at Norman Mailer. He hasn't done anything nearly as good as your early stuff. He's always been a hack, but he's trailing his toasted carcass all over the country talking and writing and talking ABOUT writing. But, you! You wanted to go a different route. You wanted to test our loyalty and play the indifferent genius at the same time. And this is where it got you.

When you die what will the authorities find, if not scads of unpublished brilliance? I'll tell you what they'll find: Cats. Lots and lots of stinky, hungry cats and they'll all have little collars with tags on them that tell the tragic truth of how they're all named Franny and Seymour and Buddy. In the end you'll be surrounded by the reminders of the only good things you did, simply because you weren't brave enough to try anything else.
That'll get the public talking again. I smell a New Yorker piece on this very subject.

So, listen. Don't worry too much about people harrassing you anymore. The only thing stalking you these days wears a dark hooded robe and carries a big scythe. So when you ride your Rascal down the dirt lane to the mailbox...that rustling in the tall grass isn't a photographer from People magazine. It's just a squirrel."**

It's smoky here. Dry. Lots of fires everywhere...and I don't mean in people's fireplaces. It's 77 degrees here as I write this and dry grass everywhere is resulting in grass fires. Last night was a new low in New Year's Eve celebrations. The oldest son went to a party. The middle son camped in front of one television to watch hockey and the youngest sat in the back with us and tried to watch a really dense Hitchcock movie called, "Under Capricorn" that we didn't finish. I made beads and we ate some great kebabs (shrimp, beef, venison, pineapple) and rice. At midnight we walked into the street and had champagne with neighbors. And then we went to bed. Wow...I'm underwhelmed. I think we're all getting a little cabin fever and there's still a week left before the kids go back to school. My resolution for 2006 is to try to live IN THE MOMENT as much as I can. I spend too much time dwelling on the past (which I can't change) or the future (which is cloudy). That...and I am going to get back into running. No, really. I'm serious.

Hope your celebration was, unlike ours, at least enough to increase your pulse rate. Otherwise, what's the point?


Blogger Mignon said...

For the past 10 years I've confused Norman Mailer and Norman MacLean, and I thought Norman Mailer wrote a bunch of hack-y books and one great one about life and fly fishing. Which was wrong, of course, so now I just think he's a frumpy over-exposed sell-out (but I really liked When We Were Kings).
And anyway, I think your New Year's sounded delightful. Champagne. Boy-children sprawled around comfortably. Bed early. Happy day!

7:35 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I just reread Catcher in the Rye about 6 months ago and I still don't get all the hub-bub. Holden Caufield was a bitter, angry young man. So what else is new?

6:56 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

I feel the same way about Catcher in the Rye. I never understood why it was so "important", unless maybe it was the voice of a generation I'm not a part of. I guess that would explain why there are so many bitter, angry men in their late 50's out there.

7:46 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

I think you have to compare "Catcher in the Rye" with previous books of that generation. Holden Caulfield's voice was the first of its kind for that time. In fact, he was really before his time. Catcher was written in 1945, the same year WWII ended and most of the literature out there regarding American youth was geared toward the notion that empty-headed happiness was the way to go. That trend continued during the '50s when post-war America was all about putting a happy face on everything. Music, television, was all an illusion that no one in his/her right mind had any reason to be discontented with life. There was a crispness and originality to Salinger's words that stood out then. The grumpy men you see now in the late '50s were never a part of the generation Salinger described. Holden Caulfield and the other characters would be nearly 80. I think that a voice such as Caulfield's doesn't sound as original as it once did. You can't swing a cat without hitting a discontented youth (or adult) in this country. But back in the time this book was written, the overwhelming psychology was one that promoted a "lockstep mentality" with everyone being alike. To stand out of the crowd and yell, "life stinks" in that time was a big deal.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Shrinking Violet said...

You run girl! And thanks for telling off JD, ditto on this end!

10:58 AM  
Blogger theyellowwallpaper said...

Interesting post. Like so many others, I read Catcher in the Rye and related to the agnst. But, agree that the book seems more outdated with kids routinely wrapping themselves in the clock of anger and confusion.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

Very interesting. Thanks for this post.

I adored _Catcher_ when I first read it. I haven't been able to think about J.D. Salinger in the same way, though, since Joyce Maynard chronicled her affair with him, thereby, of course, subjecting herself to much ridicule and criticism and speculation that she was jealous because she was considerably less talented and prominent than him.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Misfit Hausfrau said...

I also loved Catcher in the Rye. I have no doubt that ol' JD probably has a touch of the agoraphobia. One of my former vendors was related to him (her father was his cousin.) She had never met him and her father hadn't seen him since they were kids. She said he had no contact with the family.

I am also pissed that he hasn't published anything since.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Good luck with the running.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...

I don't know why but Catcher in the Rye really spoke to me when I read it at a very very young age.

I always was a complicated child.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Abe Froman said...

Its the saddest conspiracy ever concoted. A friend of mine threw up on JD Salinger's lawn.

1:32 PM  

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