Thursday, January 28, 2010

J. D. Salinger has died.



That’s a big deal for me. Reading a NY Times appreciation of him tonight, I feel “Gawd, I thought I’d forgotten about him, but my life has been some weird commingling of Salinger characters.”
Mr. Salinger’s people tend to be outsiders—spiritual voyagers shipwrecked in a vulgar and materialistic world, misfits who never really outgrew adolescent feelings of estrangement.
However, I don’t really “identify with children.”

Rather, I value a sense of temporally whole Self that hasn’t lost the spontaneity that we associate with children. Children themselves get rather tiring quickly (if they’re not your own or you’re not in charge of teaching them, etc.). But a child-centered view of parenting (and student-centered view of teaching) is quite analogous to keeping kids from falling off a cliff: facilitating free play of mind and body within safe boundaries. “Such characters have a yearning for some greater spiritual truth, but they are also given to an adolescent either/or view of the world,” which I’m not given to.

I do gladly distinguish authentic from phony, but I appreciate the survival value of polite deception; and I look dimly on hardfast categorization.

Odd, though, that I had that sudden thought a few days ago of having been a “teenage classic,“ having no association to Salinger at the time, no idea that he was dying.

And look at me this week: wanting (more or less) to “understand… ‘the main current of poetry that flows through things,’”—though having no interest in thinking of others as “morons.” I am not a Salinger character, but the background of my own teen years feels eerily inhabited by him.

I am not a Salinger character. Yet, I’m a narrative—it’s time I confessed that: I write for its own sake—and experimentally, to take the stance of another reader, turning the narrative into characterization of someone else, ambivalent about the degree to which I identify with him (or her). I sometimes make the painful mistake of sharing that with a reader who doesn’s see the writerliness of it, pleasure in play. I make up storylines of affairs and preoccupations, incapabilities and obsessions, etc., for experimental effect, not confession, but sometimes suffering loss through others’ misunderstanding.

Anyway, it’s said of Salinger that he continued to write since the ‘60s, intending to have his work published only after his death. Indeed, he corroborated the surmise:
(Reuters) In a rare interview with the New York Times in 1974, he said there was “marvelous peace” in not publishing. “It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure,” he said.
That’s me.


1/29

David Lodge on Salinger as “The Pre-Postmodernist.”