Friday, February 4, 2011

On the Anniversary of His Passing: Letter to J.D. Salinger (RIP)

[Best of PBIHT: this was first posted January 31, 2010, four days after Salinger's passing]

Dear J.D. Salinger,
I never wrote you a letter while you were alive. For obvious reasons I saw no point. Now that you're gone, though, this almost makes sense.

J.D., you are the reason I became a writer. The Catcher in the Rye changed the way I look at books. For many years it was the only book that mattered to me. I didn't realize there were Haruki Murakamis and John Steinbecks and other geniuses out there. Not till I was in my twenties did I discover that your other published works were equally phenomenal. But Catcher. I don't care that I'm not the only one. I don't care that I'm no longer 15 or 21. That book still puts me under its spell with its honesty and its passion, with its humor and its lasting power.

I have questions for my literary hero, of course I do. If I could've I'd have asked you why you were as private as you were, why you didn't publish more? Like anyone learning a craft, if I could have I'd have asked you about your process, the standard Paris Review questions, about your daily routine, about how much you revised a given story, how long it took to write a not so little short story like "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period?" I like to think we could have shared a long coffee without an awkward silence, you and I, but that's probably a lot like thinking, as I stood in line waiting my turn at the end of a New Yorker festival talk a couple years ago, that it would be different when I went up to thank Jhumpa Lahiri, that she wouldn't be so cold and distant with me - ha! J.D., you probably just wanted peace and quiet. I hope you got as much as you needed. If not, I suspect you get your share now. (And I don't mean that facetiously.)

Thus instead of outlining any more selfish wishes of what I wish I could have gotten from meeting you, I'll instead tell you what you gave me:

Here, in Part II of My Letter to J.D. Salinger.



  1. We can always be 21 or 15 in our heart.

  2. In my mind I'm still 17. Sometimes. Sometimes.

  3. I know. You are.

  4. JD Salinger was kind of a kickstart for me into the world of books. I still look back at my 14-year old self and how I cackled at the phrase "cold as a witch's teat" in the opening pages of Catcher, and my sense of...I don't know if the word is hopelessness or despair, but my sense of whatever-the-word-is after reading the final lines: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

  5. And yet those final lines actually undo so much of Holdens' cynicism. They are so full of love, so full of humanity. Holden admits to even missing Old Ackley Kid, and was there ever a crummier dorm mate than that?

  6. Why don't you have 'tweet' button on your blog?

  7. i'm guessing i should? but i don't even tweet?

  8. But people can share your posts on Twitter easily if you have the Tweet button. I am doing it right now with your Charles Bukowski's "Post Office" post.

  9. Like! Thanks, Tammy. It's time I learned what tweeting is and how it works.


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