When Less is More | a J.D. Salinger Appreciation

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger unhappily photographed on the road outside his home

He published his last story in the New Yorker the year before I was born.

Then he went dark. He’s been gone for forty-four years.

He batted 100% in the literary world: four books, all revered. A Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.

Expect the mainstream media to wallow in the “J.D. Salinger” question for the next week: they’ll enshrine his absence from public life all these years and ask whether or not his life was good, or bad.

For them, he wrote an answer which most of us will remember:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

A mass of imitators have make that style seem cliche, worn to an overly adolescent familiarity. And in some ways, he’s forever linked to it. But word was that he wrote furiously up until the end, producing hundreds of new stories. One wonders if they will not see the press or pyre.

Fittingly, there will be no memorial service and the family has issued a statement that they too wish to be left alone.