Paging Mr. Salinger

Yesterday, the most reclusive man in America, perhaps, the world, turned 90. It’s doubtful there was a party. If there were, we’ll never know. For more than 50 years, the novelist J. D. Salinger has lived in seclusion in the small town of Cornish, N.H. For a while it used to be a journalistic sport for newspapers and magazines to send reporters up to Cornish in hopes of a sighting, or at least a quotation from a garrulous local, but Mr. Salinger hasn’t been photographed in decades now and the neighbors have all clammed up. He’s been so secretive he makes Thomas Pynchon seem like a gadabout.

Mr. Salinger’s disappearing act has succeeded so well, in fact, that it may be hard for readers who aren’t middle-aged to appreciate what a sensation he once caused. With its very first sentence, his novel The Catcher in the Rye,” which came out in 1951, introduced a brand-new voice in American writing, and it quickly became a cult book, a rite of passage for the brainy and disaffected. “Nine Stories,” published two years later, made Mr. Salinger a darling of the critics as well, for the way it dismantled the traditional architecture of the short story and replaced it with one in which a story could turn on a tiny shift of mood or tone.

In the 1960s, though, when he was at the peak of his fame, Mr. Salinger went silent.

New York Times


EA Note: For anyone not familiar with one of the most highly publicized romances of its day, Joyce Maynard’s account of her year-long relationship with the reclusive writer in 1973 when she was 19, and he, 53, forms the centerpiece of her profoundly moving memoir “At Home in the World.” As Ms. Maynard so eloquently noted, “it’s not easy to sympathize with a man whose idea of an endearment is, “I couldn’t have made up a character of a girl I’d love better than you.”” One of my most cherished reads.



~ by eaesthete on 01/02/09.

One Response to “Paging Mr. Salinger”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree on Maynard’s memoir. Wonderful book.

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