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29 January 2010

Foreshadowing J.D. Salinger

How bizarrely coincidental timing is this? On Wednesday evening, Larry, Carolyn and grandson Jack Dunphy sat talking about J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye and Salinger's seclusion after its publication and then, the next day, I hear a lot about Salinger and Catcher in the Rye and his seclusion after its publication. Jack will be acting in a film based on this book.

For years and years, I knew that book to be a slim paperback volume with a maroon cover all around (front, back & spine). And, then, it was reprinted in white with a rainbow ribbon across one corner. For some time, it was jarring to see this new look, and I was not the only one who thought similarly. And, now, it has a even newer cover. Regardless, all of Salinger's books are backordered by our wholesaler. Death is a good way to sell art.

His seclusion resulted from the attention that the publication of this book garnered him, or perhaps, it was the culmination and accumulation of burden. The tributes and newscasts all mention that. Significant is what I heard on NPR (National Public Radio's All Things Considered) last night from Betty Eppes who described her rare visit with Salinger:
He said, I refuse to publish. He said there is a marvelous peace in not publishing. He said, there's a stillness. And he said, when you publish, the world thinks you owe them something. He said, if you don't publish, they don't know what you're doing, and he said, you can keep it for yourself.
This is in stark contrast to most writers who want to be published. This feeling of being put upon by the world at large is another facet of the feeling which Orhan Pamuk had upon winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is the same feeling of expectation, but while it pushes Pamuk to a "more responsible" writer and not slack on the job of writing, the apparent oppressive pressure was a nightmare to Salinger.

May you RIP, J.D. Salinger, whether or not you were able to do so here on Earth.

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