Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger

So, as Time Magazine calls him, the grand old hermit crab of American letters has passed away, at 91.

His total published literary output in paperback form could be tucked into your back pocket. A few short stories, a short novel -- most notably Franny and Zooey, and The Catcher in the Rye. If you are a man of a certain age and read it at the right time, Catcher spoke to you, and it has been required reading in hundreds of college courses for fifty years. That book alone supported him comfortably most of his life.

He hated the limelight that Catcher shined his way. So he pretty much disappeared from the stage, as a writer, and as a visible public figure, in 1963.

Nine or ten years into his self-imposed exile, his marriage over, the children with their mother, he invited a young writer, Joyce Maynard, with whom he had been exchanging letters, to move in with him. Maynard, eighteen, a budding writer already published, dropped out of Yale to do so.

The relationship foundered quickly.

Twenty-five years later, Maynard wrote a book, At Home In the World, in which she talks about her time with Salinger. She says that she remained chaste for the ten months she lived there. Well. If you don't count oral sex, which was her preference, as the idea of coitus terrified her.

According to Maynard, as she started into her own writing career, Salinger became unhappy with her for selling out -- and booted her. Other versions of this indicated that he thought she was sloppy, read nothing but TV Guide, and wanted children -- and he didn't. How she expected to get pregnant without sexual intercourse ... ?

I digress. The juicy details are always more fun ...

Um. Maynard only elected to write about their relationship, she says, when she discovered that Salinger had been writing to other young women as he had her. (When her memoir came out, she auctioned off Salinger's letters to her, for $156,500. They were bought by a software developed who supposedly gave them back to Salinger.)

Salinger believed in homeopathic medicine and liked lamb, slow-cooked over low heat ...

Adios, Jerome David. We hardly knew ye ...

No comments: