was he a good writer, an insightful visionary, a mesmerising storyteller? never having read, nor been inspired to even 'pick up' any of his works, I can't say... some call 'catcher in the rye' a classic in the teen angst / coming of age genre - it apparently typifies teenage alienation and rebellion in the 50s - but salinger was 32 when he wrote 'catcher' in 1951 - hardly a teenager - and it was actually published for an adult audience... apparently it still has a following (i suspect being on school curricula over the years has kept it in the public eye - along with its intermittent controversy) - looks like alienation and rebellion are part of teenage cultures across the generations, regardless of the era - what a surprise...so is it a classic or not? what 'makes' a classic? now that's subjective - i believe that, just like beauty, it's 'in the eye of the beholder', or should that be 'in the imagination of the reader'!
salinger had apparently been a recluse for the last 50-odd years... and from what i've read it appears he was a very dominating, controlling and manipulative personality who had a 'penchant' for much younger girls / women - all the females in his life were years, some decades, his junior!!!
the following excerpts come from an article at the daily mail online, entitled "Why did J.D. Salinger spend the last 60 years hiding in a shed writing love notes to teenage girls?" by Anne de Courcy
"Along with this quest for total seclusion went a predilection for teenage girls - not so much a Lolita syndrome as an urge to discover innocence and then mould it to the shape he wished."
i can't find any age for his first wife but he was 26 - they met when he was sent to germany to interrogate nazis at the end of the war - "There, he fell in love with a girl called Sylvie - later believed to be a former Nazi official - whom he married and, after eight months, divorced." he later described her as 'an evil woman who bewitched me'.
he was 34 when he met his second wife - "At a party, he met a young student, Claire Douglas, the 18-year-old half-sister of a British aristocrat.
Soon she moved in, and in 1955, when Claire was 20 and Salinger 36, they married. But as Salinger's desire for solitude increased, he made her burn all her papers and cut off all contact with her friends and family.
Claire, who had tried desperately to please him, found herself plunged into an isolation she had never sought. But when she became pregnant Salinger cut off all contact with the outside world and from the fourth month of her pregnancy, she saw no one whatsoever." Claire finally divorced him in 1967.
in 1972 "he saw a picture of a young writer, Joyce Maynard, on the cover of the New York Times Magazine with the headline An 18-Year- Old Looks Back On Life. Soon, Joyce was receiving fan letters from him.
Intrigued, she wrote back - and soon gave up her degree course at Yale University to live with him in New Hampshire - she was 19, he was 53." that relationship lasted 9 months.
in 1981, at 62 "he began a relationship with the 36-year-old actress Elaine Joyce, again initiated by letter. This lasted for several years, until he met Colleen O'Neill, the director of the annual town fair, who was 40 years his junior. They married in the late Eighties."
having 'fled the literary world in 1953', according to an article in the new york times "... Mr. Salinger’s privacy was punctured in 1998 and again in 2000 with the publication of memoirs by, first, Joyce Maynard ... and then his daughter, Margaret. Some critics complained that both women were trying to exploit and profit from their history with Mr. Salinger, and Mr. Salinger’s son, Matthew, wrote in a letter to The New York Observer that his sister had “a troubled mind,” and that he didn’t recognize the man portrayed in her account. Both books nevertheless added a creepy, Howard Hughesish element to the Salinger legend.
and this?? it's an orgone box based on wilhelm reich's controversial 'orgone therapy' (also known as orgasmotherapy) - a wanker's wonderland? - you wouldn't want to be claustrophobic!!
it was popular amongst some of the 'beat generation' such as kerouac and burroughs too... hmmm... kerouac, born in 1922, died an alcoholic at 47 in 1969 - burroughs, born in 1914, was an opiate addict - "a condition that marked the last fifty years of his life" - he died in 1997...
were they radicals, or bohemians - maybe they were just hedonistic manipulators of the social change that was taking place?
so what do you think? was salinger genius, eccentric, or something much darker?
i didn't mean this post to be so long or majorly about salinger... it was going to be about me dad... i was originally reflecting on salinger's age and pondering how close to that age my father would be if he'd still been alive, but then i did a bit of research about him out of curiosity, and you all know how absorbing that can be - it's been fascinating reading the articles i came across...
i recently read larry the librarian's post 'larry's dad' which made me think some more about my father and then i realised that january is the anniversary of his death - he died in 1976 in his mid-50s (my age now!!!), 3 months before my 21st birthday - took me a long time to forgive him for that one - but unfortunately there aren't many photos of him...