J.D. Salinger died yesterday. I’ve been reading the news reports, each describing his life since he found fame and fortune with The Catcher in the Rye. They call him a recluse; his decisions strange and odd, which I suppose is true. One report mentioned that he had made some strange choices, preferring to be in relationships with much younger women, choosing to live an ascetic life. I can’t help wondering how far from the truth of his life the reports are. I wonder if the sort of fame he experienced made his choice to get away the only sane option. How many bizarre examples (Tiger, Brittany, Michael) to show the destructive power of that sort of legendary and universal fame.
I love the book Franny and Zooey, 1964. He’s the only writer I’ve ever read who clearly articulated the dark side of the ascetic life. The upside is well documented albeit often attacked and distorted by fundamentalists. The downside is that facing your own demons and giving yourself to God can drive you, in a sense, mad. It affirms the reality that only in tension do we change. And tension can become a sort of addiction which is destructive to the person. Still, he’s such a good writer that I still find hope and inspiration in the book.
I’ve heard that Salinger went on writing in seclusion all these years; that a stash of material is slated to be published posthumously. Here’s hoping that it’s true.