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Sunday, 2 February 2014

On Watching Salinger

There was a recently released documentary on J.D. Salinger, chronicling his life and career in a tangential way. It's probably the most direct way of dealing with the author who pretty much invented the word "aloof."


It's hard to imagine being Salinger. Reading his work, seeing the reactions that people had to him, I cannot grasp being viewed as a deity--having my words be read with the same kind of exuberance that is usually reserved for extreme right wing readers of the St. James Bible. It's obvious that there was something in water all our mid-20th century writers were drinking. Between Hemingway, Salinger, Capote, Williams, Vonnegut and the rest, I don't think that you'll find a better group of writers. There are no better prose; no cleaner syntax.

Yet these were also men obsessed with creating their own image. Capote was a drama queen to the enth degree. Hemingway went on adventures, and intentionally put himself out there so as to maintain his bad-ass manly man image. And then there was Salinger, who was as an obsessive control freak over his words. He was renown for hating anyone who tampered with his stories. He threw fits and ended friendships.

And he was obsessed with remaining out of the spotlight. That, it seems to me, only exacerbated the public's desire to know what he was up to.

As a writer and father, I tend to believe the John Irving and Stephen King model of writing: that writing is a support system for life, not life a support system for writing; that writing should never come before family. John Irving has said in interviews that he never closes the office door, because he never wants his kids to think that they cannot come in.

Do they write as well as Salinger did? Well, the answer is a solid no. They have their great works, and have written some gooder-than-hell books, but Salinger is on a freak level. And to get there he destroyed everything that is supposed to make life beautiful: family, friendship, love.

I love to write. I love to read. And I hope that one day something of mine changes a life for the better. I hope to be a writer that attracts a fan base. But never at the price of having a life.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, waiting with bated breath for a '49 Quiet Deluxe to come back from the shop.