Okay; so maybe his heart was still beating and maybe he was continuing to be an asshole to his wife, but as far as I’m concerned, he died that day, and I don’t give a fuck if it took another 44 years, 7 months, and 8 days for his heart to stop beating. I don’t get it, and for that matter, I don’t get the reverence that people show towards him and The Catcher in the Rye. It just isn’t that good a book. I think of it like Jack Kerouac‘s On the Road. Neither are good, but both are held in high regard.
I suppose it has something to do with the fact that both books speak to young people who don’t know much about literature. It is like kids who heard Pat Boone singing Ain’t That a Shame who thought that it was rock-n-roll until they heard the Fats Domino’s original. They just don’t know no better. I will grant you that Salinger was an extremely gifted writer and I would much rather read him than I would Kerouac; but Kerouac was the real deal; Salinger was the poser and I think that is why he didn’t publish anything after his literary death: he knew if he kept writing, people would realize that his early work was more style than substance and that he would suffer the same fate that later befell Susan Eloise Hinton.
But why not just admit that you are a Truman Capote? Why not admit that you are a fine writer, not a prophet. As it is, Tolstoy left us only two great books (with almost 25 more years and many fewer distractions) because he was too wrapped up in being a Great Man. Both Salinger and Tolstoy will go down in history as great men, while Capote will go down in history as an asshole. But what does that matter? Capote provided me with more pleasure than those other two combined.
So I’m not sad that J. D. stopped breathing yesterday. I am sad that he stopped publishing 45 years ago. I’m sad that I didn’t think Catcher in the Rye was a good book when I read it as a young man. And most of all, I’m sad that I’ll have to go out tomorrow and buy it (because my copy has inexplicitly disappeared) and read the damned thing again to see if maybe I was wrong about it.
The Onion has written more eloquently about J. D. Salinger than I ever could. Understanding that there has been a lot of Salinger fan fiction written will make the following article particularly funny:
Understanding that Holden Caulfield (the main character of The Catcher in the Rye) calls people “phony” will make the following article particularly funny: