Monday, January 20, 2014

J. D. Salinger - My View

I watched an American Masters episode on PBS last night about J. D. Salinger. Not sure why the timing, since he has been dead three years, and his additional work is not scheduled to be released until 2015. Maybe it was just scheduled randomly.

Here is what I walk away from after watching: Salinger was a spoiled, self-absorbed, borderline pedophile whose only great work was a thinly-veiled autobiography.

That pretty much sums up this "reclusive genius". It is my opinion that he has used his reclusiveness to his advantage in that it perpetuated a persona that would never have been available to him had he not done so.

Let me explain. I think he knew that with Catcher in the Rye he shot his proverbial wad. There was one book inside him because he WAS Holden Caulfield. There wasn't anything else. There was perhaps a great desire for something else, but all he could manage was incident-after-accident of the Glass family. He continued to write short stories after the book was published, and a number of them were rejected. Now, what does that tell you?

He had one good story - his own. He was born to and raised in privilege. He went to private schools until his father decided that he needed more structure and discipline, and was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy. Holden was tall for his age, and if you have ever seen a photo of Salinger, you know that he was long and lean. Holden makes an appearance in another work that indicates he is lost in action during the war. Salinger's time during the war took an enormous toll on him, perhaps making him feel as if the young boy had been lost, with another one emerging after the liberation of concentration camps.

It all parallels very nicely. Does he look like a recluse to you? Not when it came to young, hot girls.

Salinger was ill-at-ease with people, unless they were young girls. He visited Daytona Beach regularly after the war and seemed to seek out teenage girls of about 14 years old. Her name was Jean Miller and, at the age of 20, finally had sex with Salinger. He dumped her shortly after. His second wife, whom he met with he was 34 and she was 19, was rejected after giving birth to their daughter. He no longer saw her at the lithe young teen that attracted him, but a mother. He wrote copious amounts of letters to Joyce Maynard. They ended their affair when she was 19.

As he aged, at least my paramours were fully-grown women (in body, at least). When he was 62, his interest was 36 (Elaine Joyce). Salinger married Colleen O'Neill when he was 69 and she was 29.

Aside from his questionable taste in the age of his love interests, he was smart enough to work the media. Surely he made the decision to become a "recluse" to those who sought him for his work. He had nothing to give. For those whom he thought may interest him, entertain him, or allow him to show his obvious disdain, he was readily available.

Great writer? Questionable.

Teaser of media? Sure.

Master manipulator? Definitely.

On my reading list? Nope.

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