A great thread over at I Love Books, discussing the works of JD Salinger. There’s no agreement there … which is one of the reasons why I think Salinger is a great writer. Nobody can agree. It’s not a done deal. The mystery remains, and people still need to discuss his work: is it relevant outside of adolescence, what was up with his other work, etc.
I’m an unabashed Salinger fan – and it seems, judging from that thread – that I might be the only person who actually really dug Seymour: An Introduction. Actually, no, I know that’s not true: My friends David and Mitchell also rave like lunatics about Seymour: An Introduction. Seymour is all about the parentheticals. Every thought (even the ones you are most certain of, even the ones which seem beyond argument to you – in your own certainty) can be interrupted (or maybe that’s not the right word, maybe “enhanced” or “deepened” or “illuminated” is more accurate) by long parentheticals (because if we’re honest with ourselves, then it is apparent that CERTAINTY is a big fat lie – and anyone who can make any statement with any amount of certainty, and with no need for a long parenthetical explaining oneself, or softening the black-and-white nature of the certainty – is a liar). I found the parenthetical nature of Seymour not only hypnotic but also tragic. You can feel JD Salinger losing his feeling of ownership over language. He can no longer make a sentence with any sense of “I am allowed to do this.” Everything (and I mean, everything) must be interrupted (but again, maybe “enhanced” is a better word ) by a parenthetical. For someone looking for a straight narrative, Seymour would drive you nuts. I didn’t go into Seymour looking for narrative. I went in because I love Salinger, and I’ll go wherever he wants to go. But as I read it (and this might be romanticism – because, after all, I do not know JD Salinger) – I feel this overwhelming sadness. Emanating off the page. The torment of the writer.
But hell, I think all his stuff is great. I love the nine stories (especially “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut”), and “Franny and Zooey” is one of my favorite books ever.
In that thread over on I Love Books, someone left the following quote from Faulkner, which moved me greatly:
“I have not read all the work of this present generation of writing; I have not had time yet. So I must speak only of the ones I do know. I am thinking now of what I rate the best one: Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, perhaps because this one expresses so completely what I have tried to say: a youth, father to what will, must someday be a man, more intelligent than some and more sensitive than most, who (he would not even have called it by instinct because he did not know he possessed it) because God perhaps had put it there, loved man and wished to be a part of mankind, humanity, who tried to join the human race and failed. To me, his tragedy was not that he was, as he perhaps thought, not tough enough or brave enough or deserving enough to be accepted into humanity. His tragedy was that when he attempted to enter the human race, there was no human race there.” – William Faulkner, 1958