Thursday, January 28, 2010


Dead at 91. I remain a fan, even of the late Glass Family stuff, even of "Hapworth 16, 1924." I actually have a hand-assembled, hand-photocopied collection of every single uncollected story, spiral-bound by Kinko's in the late '90s, before all that stuff could be read online. Most of them aren't very good, but a few are okay, and "Hapworth" is a real trip.

So is our curiosity about what the hell he's been doing for forty years going to be satisfied at last? Or will his obsessive privacy infect his descendents? Will the rumored notebooks and chest filled with finished novels be ritually destroyed in a massive bonfire over which his loved ones will roast his favorite health food items skewered on the end of maple twigs? Or will the publishing world get its way and embark on a decades-long fusillade of unedited garbage?

My hope of course is that he's been writing really good books and that we will get to read them. But a writer who shuns the supporting armature of editors and publishers rarely does very well on his own. We'll see. Or not.


5 Red Pandas said...

I'm still a fan as well. He was a flawed writer, and certainly a flawed person, but he could definitely write. I loved his dialogue the most.

I've had a long history with Salinger as a reader first. Then I taught Catcher for two years to 10th graders in Harlem. What a trip! Some dug it, some didn't care, but the book always generated discussion, which wasn't always easy. My teaching copy is marked up and post-it noted to near tatters. I really worked that book! I also taught some of the short stories and didn't realize how truly strange they are until I tried teaching them.

I'm actually reading a silly, but fun, Lawrence Block book- Burglar in the Rye- which involves a bookseller/burglar who is asked to steal back a famous reclusive author's letters so that they won't go to auction. The timing is amazing, but also just evidence of Salinger's cultural reach and endurance.

I'm curious whether he actually wrote some good books or whether they were just self-indulgent exercises. His children have some difficult decisions ahead of them and I don't envy them.

R.I.P. Mr. Salinger. Here's one librarian saddened by your passing.

rmellis said...

Somehow I didn't think it would happen this way. I thought he would give in and publish first. Or something.

I'm DYING to know what he's been up to these past decades.

Sung said...

First Erich Segal, and then Robert B. Parker, and now J.D. Salinger. They come in threes!

He captured the kid voice better than anyone. And 5 Red Pandas, I totally hear you re: dialogue -- that story, "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes," is probably one of the best examples.

Hope said...

John and Rhian, sounds like you need a road trip to Cornish, NH. Let me know when you land! Ha ha.

George F. Snell III said...

Here's hoping that his writing desk contains treasures of beautifully written prose that will put "Catcher in the Rye" to shame.

Steven317 said...

That we will, or won't.