Wednesday, September 25, 2002
I do not share godofthemachine's diss of J.D. Salinger, if only because I've already read similar opinions too many times. Salinger is a dream of a writer, but because of his subject -- children, both the anti-social and the overly bright variety -- he gets unfortunately tagged as this writer you're supposed to grow out of, that he's someone you "relate" to at a tortured adolescent age and then shuck off after college. Somewhere in the process, his artistry and elegant prose gets dismissed. Franny and Zooey is a wonderful novel (Janet Malcolm's piece in the New York Review of Book last year is a brilliant reminder of why) and people forget about the brilliant social comedy of "Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters" or that immaculate story "To Esme -- With Love and Squalor" or the brilliant "The Laughing Man." (Or maybe they don't; Esme was certainly precocious.) Anyway, the more I read Salinger, the more criticisms against him seem gratingly wrong-headed and irrelevant; or maybe it's just me -- maybe this is a blind spot I don't share. More about this later -- I need to pull the books off the shelves to point to my favorite examples. I'm still in love with that sentence from "The Laughing Man" about the girl tossing the cigarette lighter at the nose of the porpoise -- and if after this world people go to live in a world populated by fictional chacters, then my next wife is Franny Glass.