Yet Another Page on J.D.Salinger?
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Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters:
|I had always thought that the
best way to pay homage to JDS would be to have a blacked out 3cms by
5cms box in place of a photograph, surrounded by austere blank space,
by way of an explanation. But considering the revival of
media-interest in him, thanks largely to the controversy regarding the
possible publication of Hapworth
in a book form — and consequent regurgitation and recycling of the
general public perception of JDS—that of an eccentric, cantankerous,
reclusive — and, probably, senile — old man given to
indiscriminate legal activism against perceived infringements of his
copyright material.and fiercely protect his privacy—the shutting
down of The Holden Server, the old controversy apropos Ian
Hamilton's book etc. add to the mysterious, enigmatic aura around
him—giving rise to many a yarn, of the urban-legend genre, about his
life, the Universe and everything. Like typical memes, the stories
evolve, and as a result the dense fog of myth around him has grown so
thick as to become almost indistinguishable from what may, laughingly,
be called the facts—helped in no small measure by his own gleeful
efforts at feeding the grapevine with misleading information—what
Time once called, his "coy fraudulence"—that it is
important for a real JDS fan to at least be aware of the abounding
stories around him.
"I said I didn't give a good God damn what Mrs. Fedder had to say on the subject of Seymour. Or. for that matter, what any professional dilettante or amateur bitch had to say.. I said that from the time Seymour was ten years old, every summa-cum-laude Thinker and Intellectual men's room attendant in the country had been having a go at him. I said it might be different if Seymour had just been some nasty little high-I.Q. showoff. I said he hadn't ever been an exhibitionist. He went down to the broadcast every Wednesday night as though he were going to his own funeral. He didn't even talk to you, for God's sake, the whole way down on the us or subway. I said that not one God-damn person, of all the patronizing, fourth-rate critics and column-writers, had ever seen him for what he really was. A poet for God's sake. And I mean a poet. If he never wrote a line of poetry, he could still flash what he had at you with the back of his ear if he wanted to."
Most of JDS fans would empathize with Buddy's voice in Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters replacing Seymour with JDS. And yet JDS probably still gets "[...]poignant get-well-soon notes from old readers of mine who have somewhere picked up this bogus information that I spend six months of the year in a Buddhist monastery and the other six in a mental institution." (Seymour: An Introduction)
Writing way back in 1962, Henry Anatole Grunwald had commented "whatever his motives, Salinger's elusiveness adds a special element to his fiction. He plays with it, and on it. He works unmistakable facts about himself into his stories, and grins at the resulting confusion when, in his jacket notes to "Franny and Zooey", he refers to Buddy Glass as his "alter-ego and collaborator". In short he teases, and curiosity about his life is therefore even more natural, more legitimate than in the course of other artistes."
And that, mind you, was prior to Seymour or, indeed, Hapworth which in particular, could be read as directly addressed to his literary critics, despite being avowedly dedicated to amateur readers, those who "read and run."— "could be", of course, being the operative words. As Daniel Dennett says, in an entirely different context, "there could be talking bunny rabbits, spiders who write English messages in their webs, and for that matter, melancholy choo-choo trains. There could be, I suppose, but there aren't--so my theory doesn't have to explain them."
That roughly is the credo of these pages. I will endeavour, with the help of Matt Kozusko, who is the guiding spirit behind the JDS FAQ we are working on together, to present such facts and, well, theories as are well-known and documented about JDS, giving due regard and respect to his "rather subversive opinion that a writer's feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years," (Jacket Notes, Franny & Zooey We shall try, to use Holden Caulfield's words as the preamble to these pages that follow,as guidelines of sorts.
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two haemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They're nice and all—I'm not saying that—but they're also touchy as hell." The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
Because of all of this you should, of course, take almost all, or at least some, of the stufff in here, a-la Seymour in Hapworth, as "very conversational theory.." Whether or not "sheer crap" or "priceless" is unfortunately something we wouldn't want to say much about. We think it pretty much speaks for itself. As a personal favourite, all I would state is that the story I love the best was reported way back in 1960, by one Mr. David Leitch:"One night in Rome about a year ago, an American friend, well known for his sobriety and serious-mindedness, phoned in a state of great excitement to say that he had met Seymour Glass's brother-in-law in a bar and would I go and meet him." Apparently, unfortunately, he didn't.
We sincerely,—earnestly, fervently—hope—wish, desire, pray —that JDS or his agents — referred rather uncharitably, we thought, in some sections of the press, as his "minions" — do not perceive our efforts with the feelings displayed by young Seymour in Hapworth:"No single day passes that I do not listen to the heartless indifferences and stupidities passing from the counselors's lips without secretly wishing I could improve matters quite substantially by bashing a few culprits over the head with an excellent shovel or stout club!"
Our best headgear is to present ourselves as fellow co-conspirators, alter-egos, and collaborators in spreading the Gospel of these myths; to confuse, nay, confound those seeking the real scoop. Which, if we may say to seem to contradict ourselves, is merely the fact that we don't want his neighbors inconvenienced. We want him left alone, left to his privacy. We know he's a private person and resents questions. Also, that he doesn't want to appear harsh. And doesn't want to talk to strangers. We hope that after going through these pages, you won't want to drop in on him. These pages are for those JDS fans who do not have time to go through thick academic tomes written about him. We hope that you'd drop in at the Bananafish Mailing List instead—a listserv run by Stephen Foskett whose Bananafish Home Page is the primary source for JDS material on the web. It might be useful, though, to go through the JDS FAQ that I am working with Matt Kozusko on, if not all the Bananafish Mailing List Archives
It would be bad form to not thank Stephen Foskett who's made it possible to meet and exchange memes with a whole lot of JDS lovers in the Universe—a whole lot of anonymous benefactors at the Bananafiish Mailing List—in particular those who have over a period of time made available hard-to-find Uncollected Stories and other texts. Will Hochman, of USC, specifically, has been more than kind, generous and benevolent. And what can I say about Matt Kozusko, lover of the long shot, propounder of many a conversational theory, alternately prizelss and sheer-crap, egging me on to HTMLise?
If you like JDS, I am sure you would love meeting these people, and many more too numerous to list here (if you really wanna know, send mail "who bananafish" or/and "who banananfish digest" right now! I am sure poring over the Mailing List Archives would be an edifying experience. Or better still, why don't you meet all these people online by joining the mailing list right now — just send the message "subscribe (your email)" —here? See you there..
| That David Copperfield Kind of Crap | In His Own Write | The Betty Eppes Story | Fritz Pitz: The Glass Family Janitor | Oona O'Neil Chaplin | Hapworth 16, 1997? | Uncollected & Unpublished Stories | Other Links | The JDS FAQ (w.i.p) | Matt's JDS FAQ