If you missed the memo, J.D. Salinger finally stopped complaining about violations of his privacy, and filing lawsuits to prevent unauthorized publication of his works, both previously published and not. He was 91.
People of a certain age remember when Jerome David Salinger’s first novel, Catcher In the Rye, was the most controversial issue in America since women shed their bloomers. As with most controversies of this flavor, looking back years later it’s hard to understand, let alone appreciate. But major battles were fought over dinner tables, in school auditoriums, and eventually, in courts of law. I won’t say who won or who lost, but by the time I got around to reading it, it was required in tenth grade.
I probably read the book 50 times, counting those sessions where I’d pick it up and pore over a chapter or two. I still hear myself saying, “ferchrissake, Ackley,” and remembering what a horse’s ass Stradlater was. Thinking about it now, it’s so out of date and downright quaint it probably has zero impact on today’s readers just for style, let alone content. That’s okay. More for me.
There are three other books, including the amazing Franny and Zooey, and a bunch of stories that leaked out over teh internets before he had his lawyers scuttle them (I have them printed out and collected in a binder). That’s it for his officially published works. He ain’t no James Patterson. More like Calvin Coolidge of the literary world.
When Salinger disappeared into his private compound up in frozen Cornish, NH, it was widely rumored that he was still working, scribbling away, but with no intention of ever publishing another word so long as he stayed vertical. Forty years later, I confess to a certain sense of impatience, even fear: what if the sonofabitch outlives me and I never get to read anything more?
Now I’m worried that he didn’t write a damn thing, or that he left instructions that nothing of his would see the light until the Mayans regain control of the hemisphere. Or worse – until the Congress passes a health care bill. * Groan * We might ALL be dead as Salinger himself.
We shall see, we shall see. Meanwhile, remember the words of satirist/songwriter Alan Sherman:
“Don’t be a stingy sandwich-maker / Pile the cold cuts high
Customers should see salami / Coming through the rye.”
He’s dead, too.