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Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger, Author of Catcher in the Rye, Dies

The reclusive J.D. Salinger, author of the book The Catcher in the Rye and the long short story "Franny and Zooey," died today. He was 91. N.Y. Times story here.

Salinger's few published works often attempted to connect on a deeply psychological level, and in that way he was either a hit or a miss with readers. Either you could empathize or understand the character or you could not. This "getting it or not" has very little to do with intelligence on the part of the reader, but whether the work's angst, confusion, alienation and distance was in any way familiar and appealing.

Personally, I always liked "Franny and Zooey" although it possesses moments in its prose that are ever-so-slightly too elevated for the subject, and the narrating agent seems too smitten with the Glass family.

The Times article quotes Philip Roth who managed, I think, to nicely sum up Salinger's literary mark and, perhaps, the body of work's aspirations. "The response of college students to the work of J. D. Salinger indicates that he, more than anyone else, has not turned his back on the times but, instead, has managed to put his finger on whatever struggle of significance is going on today between self and culture."

Salinger himself was a recluse living on a large isolated spread in New Hampshire. The N.Y. Times article covers both his hermetic nature and some of his abusive and disturbing eccentricities alleged by his daughter and an ex-girlfriend with a reasonable, if a little too kindly, eye.

Personally, I believe writer's biographies, scandals, amateurish psychological profiles, and such things to be mere distractions. We did not know this man. Salinger's eccentricities mean little to us, merely something to cluck our tongues at and speculate upon in idle conversation.

What we do know is Salinger's writing (at least a small portion of it). And that is a body of work of undeniable influence and literary genius. For those of us who never knew him, let us remember him for that.

1 comment:

  1. RIP, J.D.

    The Devega bicycle is still with me after all these years.