Not unlike a lot of folks, I’ve been inspired by Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. (Borrrrrring. Who cares?) And also like a lot of folks, I’ve been intrigued by his reclusiveness. (You know he’s gotta be a jerk.) I haven’t read his entire early works but the ones I’ve read I like as well, just not on the same level as Catcher (because there’s a prostitute of course).
But even at his worst he’s better than most (especially all of the other Salinger’s).
I’m not sure of the exact dates or anything, but it seems like his best writing (especially the aforementioned classic) happened just after he returned from World War II (F.U., I did zero research on this. It’s all based on hearsay). Like many people, the war changed his life.
I would presume that many find this to be a coincidence, that most fans see him as a brilliant man that would have created exactly what he did even if he hadn’t been in combat. I mean, Catcher in the Rye isn’t really combat, is it? So what does the war have to do with it?
My theory is that Hitler taught him to write, that they had one-on-one personal sessions in Hitler’s red and black Volkswagen with swastika rims.
Actually that’s not my theory, at least not anymore— not after reading J.D. Salinger’s blog titled, “Hitler Never Taught Me to Write in His Pimped Out Bug, But He is an Underrated Synchronized Swimmer.”
War forced him into a place he didn’t want to be and I fully believe it changed him and his writing. Obviously it’s disturbing and sad, but it’s reality, and the reality of the disturbing images he saw is one of the ingredients for great art. In no way am I saying he should have enlisted in more wars or surrounded himself in suffering or anything like that.
(Although as a fan of his writing, yes I’m saying he should have gone back to war: Vietnam, The Cold War, Iraq, and even wars that we weren’t involved in. He should’ve VOLUNTEERED for all of ‘em. But that’s just the selfish fan in me. The selfish fan with refined taste, that is. Jesus. Go to war with your neighbors at least or something, goddamit.)
Not long after J.D. Salinger acquired fame he was described as a loner and the reputation would remain for the rest of his years. This is decades of avoiding the public. And while I admire that he did so, I DO think that it affected the work that was released after, and would be willing to bet that it affected the work that has YET to be released (the many upcoming posthumous writings).
I am jealous of him, very much so, for being able to escape so many assholes and not having to have a real job and so on. So yes, a lot of this is coming from jealousy. But even if I weren’t jealous I would still have something to say about all this, so let’s just focus on that.
Apparently he very often ignored his kids and family and friends and sat in a cabin to write for days on end. And while that does appeal to me in a way (what poor writer with a crappy job and kids wouldn’t want that?), I don’t think it’s good in the long run for one’s “art.” I also believe this put a strain on his relationships (obviously).
I would bet money that his lover longed for a good pounding that they never got, or rarely got.
What I’ve gathered is that he immersed himself so much in his writing (much of which is about the same few characters) that he didn’t do what is essential to good art. He didn’t really LIVE. The only exciting thing involving him became his reclusiveness. He wasn’t the one writing the incredibly interesting story anymore. He was the crazy main character in an incredibly interesting story.
Also, and this is purely assumption, he wasn’t pounding enough, and I think that’s important to art too. Pounding is often very essential to art (fart).
I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have been a recluse. I very much get that.
But I believe that if an artist makes money they should live adventurous lives and travel and hang out with weird people in interesting places, but also live their life and hang out with their kids and loved ones because they are the real muses.
I do think for writers and other artists there is a time for closing yourself in a room and just focusing on your work, sure, but there has to be some balance. There has to be those times where you take risks, or feel some kind of frustration besides cabin fever.
At a relatively early age, his book became an instant success and was influential to many and all the wonderful things that practically all writers long for.
But then what? Then the magic wears off. Magic doesn’t still happen after many, many years of shutting yourself off from the entire world. It just doesn’t, even if you’re brilliant and creative. Somewhere down the line you just… run… out.
And what if he had never gotten the recognition he had received, what if Catcher was never published, what then? I guarantee at least one, if not many, of his later works would have been even better. What I’m saying is that there had to have been an endless supply of potentially genius material that never surfaced, thanks to fame and money. Fame and money made from his most popular genius material.
So, in a way you could say that Catcher in the Rye was the best and worst thing to ever happen to him. Thank you J.D. for making that sacrifice.