J.D. Salinger has died. He may have gone a touch off the wall in his declining years, but he is still responsible for one of the best – “For Esme, With Love and Squalor” – and funniest – “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” short stories I know. To say nothing of gifting the world the Glass family and coining the word “phony.”
Some speculate that Salinger has amassed a trove of work in his reclusive hideout years, that will eventually surface now that he has passed on. That would be wonderful if it were so. But tonight I’ll re-read something from Nine Stories to mark the passing of one of the last of the old-style Great Ones.
Spotted at Salon.
A Swedish author who has written a sequel to The Catcher in the Rye has caught the ire of JD Salinger, now 90 years old and evidently as irascible as he was back in the good ole swinging ’40s. It’s good the man still has energy although I sort of wish he’d devote some to, um, writing. The Catcher in the Rye was published 58 years ago. Is the best thing a 90-year old man, any 90-year old man, has to do suing the writer of what is almost certainly a mediocre knock-off of an American classic?
Sure, every year a new generation of high schoolers is forced to read it, but I think it’s lost some of its punch. To wit, when I found out a cousin of mine, a high schooler, had never read it, I promptly bought her a copy and inscribed it with something thoughtful I don’t nowremember. I expected ecstatic emails about how awesome it was. I never received any. Nor has she ever mentioned the book again. Underawed, evidently.
If you’d like to see JD thoroughly skewered, read The Asshat in the Rye. Mr. Salinger’s old eyes can apparently still read the fine print so I imagine he can take this in, too. Though he almost certainly won’t. You should, though.
Over at Teleread there’s speculation that Salinger has all kinds of manuscripts just waiting to be published. I’ve read this, too, but it’s still rife speculation. Maybe they don’t exist. Maybe they’re no good. Maybe Salinger knows they can’t hold a candle to his earlier work, and that’s why he’s never put them out there. I’d respect that, if it were true.
Also speculated: that he hasn’t published anything because he has no financial incentive to do so. He makes so much money selling The Catcher in the Rye to high schools that he doesn’t need the cash more books would bring. I’d not like to think this of Salinger. A real artist would publish whatever he wrote, just because he wrote it. I hate to think the writer who brought “phony” into the public lexicon would prove to be one himself.