Yesterday saw the passing of great American writer JD Salinger. The Age have written a nice article outlining Salinger’s life and controversies.
I have fond memories of Salinger’s writing. In when I was about 16, I was busy getting stuck into novels recommended by my literature teacher – Madame Bovary, The Age of Innocence, and many other novels containing statements about feminism which I was a little too young to fully grasp. I’d heard a bit about “The Catcher In The Rye”, so when I came across a $4 used copy, I grabbed it. It opened up a whole world of writing to me which I didn’t know existed beyond teen fiction – I thought only books marketed to teens contained anything that spoke to me, while adult fiction was all about interpreting and puzzle-solving. “The Catcher In The Rye” began my discovery of what I really enjoy reading. It took me through all the Beats, into contemporary writers who challenge the norm – with political and moral consciences (Chuck Palahniuk), pushing “appropriate” boundaries (Bret Easton Ellis), writing in unconventional forms (Irvine Welsh), and all the postmodern trickery that was more widely conducted around the time Salinger was writing (Jorge Luis Borges, through to Dave Eggers and Mark Z Danielewski). So, JD Salinger was the gateway to a whole world of enjoyable literature (which now includes a nice balance of pomo trickery and afforementioned feminist classics).
I was talking to my partner recently about how authors with one particularly famous book or style take on so much of their characters and their characters’ attitudes. I think to some extent this is in the role of “author”… So while JD Salinger was so reclusive for most of his life, and we haven’t heard from him in many many years, his death feels like I’ve lost an old and distant friend.
RIP, Jerome David Salinger.
29/01/2010 at 4:14 pm
JD Salinger died this month? Shit, how did I miss that? I mean, I didn’t get through Catcher in the Rye when i was a kid but that probably has more to do with my mental state at the time than anything else. Truely, a sad passing. I shall have to get my hands on a copy and finish what I started.
It makes me ponder something though. Writers never really die for me, or perhaps it’s just that they are undead, even when they’re alive. Each book we read and love, that climbs inside us and acts as a nexus of understanding and comprehension, is like the writer themselves trapped in amber. Maybe not the whole writer, maybe just an aspect, a fragment. Libraries are morturaries for the Living Dead.
Dammit, did I just type that in a blog comment?!? That’s a totally worthy line! I shoulda squirriled it away for a poem or a shortstory or something. 😛
Oh well, too late now.
Speaking of Nexii of comprehension and understanding, I love what you’ve written about Catcher in the Rye being such a creature for you. I was the same with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana – by following inspirations and covers I was introduced to so much that i now love. Cultural markers and road maps such individuals be.
I love your putting together in the same sentence of Dave Eggers and Mark Z Danielewski. ‘House of Leaves’ blew my mind and ‘a heartbreaking work of staggering genius’ was indeed a genius coupling of a very personal story with the mileau of a certain aspect of 90s american youth.
29/01/2010 at 5:41 pm
JD Salinger only died yesterday, so don’t feel too behind. Catcher took me until the second try to get through it, so you’re not alone.
Quick, I won’t tell anyone: use your “living dead libraries” line in a blog post! I”ll react as if I’d never heard it before, I promise.
What did Nirvan & Cobain lead to for you? What doors did it open?
01/02/2010 at 3:43 pm
Right, so Nirvana and the cultural nexus. In this instance cultural pertains to music more than anything else, although there is a cool anecdote of when Cobain met William Burroughs at his house. Upon leaving Burroughs turned to his assistant and said: “There is something wrong with that boy. He frowns for no reason.”
Anyway, back to music. Nirvana did quite a few covers over the years, most of which appear on the Unplugged in New York album – from there I got pointed to Leadbelly and the blues in general, especially the old scratchy recordings which i love, Meat Puppets, David Bowie – which for me was a slow burn but whom i totally rate these days, and also The Vaselines. Now, nirvana covered three of their songs, two on incesticide and one on Unplugged. They’re a little known scottish band and it took me a while to get hold of any of their stuff. If you haven’t heard them it’s totally worth tracking them down.
Nirvana we’re also my introduction to Punk in general, which continues to be a massive musical love of mine. The effect it had on society in the 70s and 80s is an inspiration to an irrepresible rascal like myself. It sickens me the way its signifyers have been swallowed up by the mainstream these days. The spirit of Punk lives on though.
From Leadbelly to the blues, through to bebop via On The Road.
so, from punk, to post-punk (which grunge i guess would be a sub-genre of), proto-punk (the velvet underground, the stooges, the fugs), new wave, no wave – every faction containing examples of sheer musical awesome.
On the no-wave front a paticular note. I became aware of Sonic Youth vaguely through nirvana. The year after I got into nirvana and punk in general I met someone who had a love of Sonic Youth, getting to listen to them alot around that time, and they remain one of my favourite bands to this day.
Also, from nirvana to sonic youth, from sonic youth to freejazz – sonic youth using freejazz compositional techniques in their post-nowave days.
Also, the pixies. Curt Cobain once said that Nirvana were just a Pixies cover band, probably only half sarcastically. There’s a band from Cardiff, my home town, called Mclusky. The lead singer said the same thing of themselves, referencing what Cobain said. Despite this, they were actually a really good band, and if you like noisy post-punk i heartily recommend them.
I could probably go on if I really thought about it. Writing this comment has given me an idea for a blog post. Whether or not i’ll get around to writing it is a different story all together.
31/01/2010 at 11:45 am
I think Salinger’s death can only spur me on to read my first Salinger book — oops! It’s so odd when such a well-known writer dies and you haven’t yet sampled his writing. I feel sad, but a bit like a fake, since I don’t know exactly what it is the world is mourning. But it definitely makes me more keen to hurry up and get acquainted.
By the way, looking forward to checking out that Tip of my Tongue website! I’m terrible at retrieving words when I need them.
31/01/2010 at 2:30 pm
Hi Estelle! Thanks for dropping by…
I’ve had the same thing with other writers or musicians who die, then I panic and feel the need to catch up with the rest of the world!
Tip of my Tongue is certainly a helpful tool to have bookmarked, hope it comes in handy for you!
01/02/2010 at 12:29 am
I’ve always viewed an author’s death as good reminder to read something by them. I don’t feel sad, or fake, and think of it as a way of honouring them.
01/02/2010 at 5:46 am
I like the sound of that…
I can never quite figure out how I feel about the Popular Penguin series… (do you have them whereever you’re from? I’m in Australia).
Basically, Penguin Books have started making ridiculously affordable books, and printing really good “classics” in this series… The books retail at about $7 (AUD). very very cheap, considering most books here are upwards of $30 (AUD).
anyway, I can’t decide if my feeling more compelled to read a book after Penguin have dubbed it “a classic” or whatever, makes me a bit bandwagonish… The fact that I can afford these books more quickly probably helps… But I now have a huge lineup of orange-and-yellow “popular penguin” covers, while I perhaps should have shown some interest in these things before I had Penguin put them into a tidy little series for me.
01/02/2010 at 3:17 pm
Well, I’m in the UK, which is the home of penguin publishing, something I take a small amount of pride in because Penguin are a pretty damn good publishing company and have a good history; founded in 1935 by a guy called Allen Lane with the intention to bring good books to the masses by making them affordable paperbacks. Over the years I’ve read many books released by them, although it was the title and author that was important to me, the publisher being penguin seemed to be a happy coincidence. I guess Penguin are ubiquitous with books over here.
I have a friend who goes ga-ga for the old penguin designs, with their simple bands of colour and no pictures.
As for the Popular Penguin series, a quick looksee at their wiki page tells me that they’re a paticularly australian imprint that stay true to Lane’s original ethos. I have a feeling that my friend would love them, especially with their simple yet effective cover designs. I wouldn’t feel any shame in buying these cuz frankly they look awesome and by the sounds of things books are prohibitively expensive in AU.
I remember a few years back ending up with something called a pocket penguin release. It was a series of books they did that were basically either really short works by paticular authors, or a couple of chapters from one of their books. I thought it was a really cool idea. I ended up with a collected of Dave Eggers short short stories, possibly given away with a newspaper, i forget. Anyway, they were great. ^_^ Satirical, Sardonic and well wickedly amusing.
As for my own book buying habits… I tend to try and get books as cheaply as i can. 2nd hand from charity shops or shops that deal in such things, or off of amazon through the amazon marketplace. Basically, my reading habits tend to be guided but what i find in these places, largely by serendipity. There’s nothing like finding a book you’ve never heard of by an author whose name means nothing to you on shelf filled with Sebastian Faulk and J. K. Rowling handmedowns, in a shop that smells like your grandmothers house. My best recent find was Grapes of Wrath being sold for charity in a local supermarket!
Now, this is something i do feel a small amount of shame for, as it means that I don’t read new releases very often. This makes me feel a little lame to be honest and i’m trying to redress the balance. Recently, I got my hands on two books I’ve been trying to pick up for the past couple of years; crooked little vein by warren ellis & little brother by cory doctorow; the former being a twisted look at the american psyche written in the form of a noirish dectective novel, the latter being a YA book about these hacker kids living in an oppresive post-911 kinda era and doing all that they can to bring the system that oppresses them down. for a novel targeted at teenagers it’s a well subversive read!
At the moment I’m reading Qurelle of Brest by Jean Genet, which i picked up years ago when I lived in cardiff along with another Genet book, in this antiques book store. I read the other one and never got around to this one, so now i’m coming back to it.
To conclude: Books are awesome but cheap books are insanely awesome! The smell of new books is bliss, but the smell of second hand books is uberbliss!
02/02/2010 at 6:49 am
I know the history of Penguin, and it’s an admirable one. I’m glad they still continue that ethos today, which I believe is the whole point of the Popular Penguins.
Penguin are quite well-known here too, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the most noticeable cultural alliances between here and there with the exception of the UK’s love of “Neighbours” (terrible TV show).
Indeed, books are “prohibitively expensive in AU”… very much so. Which is really a pity, as we have so much great stuff going on.
Your little Dave Eggers collection sounds fantastic! I’ll have to see if I can order it online anywhere or something.
Sounds like you’ve mastered the art of op-shopping for books… I buy a lot of my books from op-shops, and have found a few really really great second-hand book shops locally… One in particular is underground on one of the main streets in the city, it’s a whole dungeon (probably 3 or 4 stores wide) with floor-to-ceiling books. Fabulous!
As for your post about Nirvana etc: Please do blog about it. Sounds like an interesting read. and I LOVE the Vaselines! Love ’em.
02/02/2010 at 3:47 pm
Oh god, my mum used to watch neighbours when I was a kid. I’d get home from school, watch some kiddie tv and then on it would go. Oh, the memories! The terrible, terrible memories…
That underground second hand bookshop sounds heart-poundingly amazing. I’d probably loose my mind in there. I remember being in Toronto for a couple of weeks, visiting a friend, and I was totally gob-smacked by the sheer number of bookshops there. In the end i was buying books instead of buying food and still it wasn’t enough.
All in all Melbourne sounds like a pretty cool city. I’ll have to add it to my list of places to visit if i ever end up with a massive chunk of money.
As for the nirvana post it’s definately something I’m going to have to consider. I’ve been thinking about doing a few massive posts on music, what it means to people, it’s importance within the world, but I reckon it would take a while to write to do it properly. Maybe I should just start planning them now and stop with the procrastination. Still, I’m being pretty productive at the moment and I don’t want to upset the balance just yet; I blog in the morning, work on my novel in the afternoon and try and fit everything else, like housework, in between. I’ve always said to myself that I want Either/or/Bored to be more than just a bunch of links but my novel has to take precedence over everything else.
Vaselines FTW! I had a nirvana day yesterday. Think I’ll go with the vaselines today.
02/02/2010 at 4:38 pm
If you do come to Melbourne let me know – I can give you the official Books Tour… What’s the novel you’re working on? I haven’t the bravery for a novel, though I think I’m going to have to get it in the next few years – I’m starting a degree which requires me to major in Novel or Screenwriting… Either way it’s going to have to be a hell of a lot longer than the couple-of-thousand-words pieces I’m putting out now. It sounds like you have a very organized writing life. Mine’s much more fitful than that… How old are you? Tell me it’s taken you years to perfect, haha!
02/02/2010 at 5:40 pm
I couldn’t help but laugh when you said I had a very organised writing life. I so seriously don’t. I’m the most disorganised person in the world, I’m lazy, I’m flakey, i am the king of procrastination. I’ve been working on this novel for the past couple of years, off and on, usually not for a lack of time to do it but because I’ve failed time and time again to Get My Shit Together. Fuck, I’m only like halfway through the first draft. Writing a novel is really fucking hard! The doubts and uncertainty, the desire to restructure, trying so hard to focus on just soldiering on instead of pondering if this is good or that is right. Absolute nightmare. Pain, terrible pain!
But that’s just me. I stumbled into writing this novel. It started as a short story, a mash note fairytale for my girlfriend but it wasn’t content being a short story, oh now, it wanted to be more. The fucker!
As for what it is about, I suck at answering that question. It’s a love story and a meditation on society, bureacracy, control and the darker aspects of the human psyche. It’s about a girl and a boy with terribly painful telepathic powers and horrendous lives who eventually find each other and then… ah, well that would be telling, not showing, wouldn’t it? 😉
As for your question, i’m 27 and I haven’t perfected shit. I’m just flailing about in the dark with a complete lack of discipline and focus, although I like to think i’m making progress on that front. Maybe not though. I should be working on the novel as we speak and instead I got all caught up on a blogpost and now i’m replying to comments!
Incidently, I did Film & Video at university, which obviously included modules on screenwriting. As i’ve been writing this I’ve been thinking about advice i could give you and I’ve come up with this: screenwriting is undoubtly a skill, a craft – something that can take years to perfect. Its rules are pretty basic though and I think a degree purely in that would be a little dull and contain cross-over with a degree in The Novel anyway. If i was you I would do the novel degree and get some books on screenwriting and study them, maybe do a short course on it in the future. That way you’ll have a whole gamult of creative writing discipline and understanding to draw on in the future. For me, degre wise, it was either film & video or creative writing. After listening to some friends with creative writing degrees I chose the former, although there have been many moments in the past two years in which I wish i had chosen the latter.
Again, incidently, I am actually working on a feature script at the moment. It was originally something i was going to get around to but after some discussion with a friend (who happens to be australian) in which she supplied some unique perspective on my idea, it has become a collaboration. She’s an academic who is having trouble finding work in the UKs terrible economic climate (especially terrible on the university front) so we decided that she should knock out the first draft with plenty of notes and then I’ll get involved in the 2nd draft. That way I can focus on my novel because frankly I don’t think i’m up to balancing both at the moment. Hopefully I will be by the time she’s done with that draft.
I really should work on writing shorter comment replies….
03/02/2010 at 3:08 am
Don’t work on shorter replies at all, I love your lengthy missives. Is it cold in the UK? It’s so hot here… Third day above 30, which isn’t that high (last year’s high point was a 47degree day which you no doubt heard about there) – it’s just when there’s more than a couple of days above thirty I start to get sick of it, I’m so much better in the cold. I’m eating burnt hot cross buns for breakfast. If you have an extract of your novel that you could email me I’d really love to give it a looksee! It sounds like an interesting concept, dispite the difficulty of “what’s it about?”… My degree is a generalized “creative writing” course, in the first year it covers both novel writing and screenwriting, so that in the second year we have an idea of what we’d prefer to focus on. http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=BP257;STATUS=A;PAGE_AUTHOR=;VIEW=; there’s a link to a brief outline type thing. Hope you’re well today and get some work done on your novel 🙂
02/02/2010 at 4:15 pm
Oh yeah, I meant to ask, are you working on anything writingwise at the moment?
02/02/2010 at 4:40 pm
Writingwise for me – Little Girl With A Big Pen is most of it at the moment, i’m working on a few short stories and poems which I’m trying to polish and get sent out, which is a pretty constant process though I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch lately… I’ve got a bunch of themes and deadlines here which I really should knuckle down and chase; make shit happen.
03/02/2010 at 2:40 pm
It’s unfortunate that you like my rambling, long ass comments, cuz today is gonna be pretty short. I didn’t get fuck all writing done yesterday for a variety of reasons so I’m extra determined to get a decent amount done today. I’ve used up all my free time blogging stuff cuz that monkey on my back wouldn’t let me do anything else. The bastard.
Is it cold in the UK right now? Fuck yeah! . There’s sposed to be snow later but being on the coast makes it a little unlikely. Still, it’s not as cold as Finland. I have a friend who lives there who is so completely sick of the cold and the snow that he’s considering going on a killing spree just to warm himself up. I wouldn’t worry though cuz I’m pretty sure the sheer feet of snow would make his progress quite slow and labourious.
The degree sounds interesting and kinda shoots my advice out of the water a little. I’d still be tempted to do The Novel in your last year but then, if you’ve all ready covered it somewhat in the first two, maybe the technical knowledge of screenwriting would be more useful. As i’m sure you know it’s quite a different beast from other forms of creative writing and may provide more gainful employment opportunities. Just think, in a few years time and with some hard work and arselicking you could become headwriter on Neighbours!
I’ve been telling myself for some time that I’m going to post some extracts from my novel on either/or/bored. First it was gonna be when I got 100 hits in a day and kept a decent hit rate after that, then it was gonna be in the new year, now I’m back to the 100 hits thing. I got 98 hits yesterday, a considerable improvement on the previous record of 72, but it is looking doubtful that I’m going to get anywhere near that today. I’m a little worried about releasing chapters out into the wild in what is essentially a 1st draft form but to be honest I probably just need to stop being such a chicken shit and do it. I’m already pondering a couple of chapters actually but I really need to put some serious thought into it before i actually do it. Plus, I haven’t hit 100 yet 😉
For Either/Or/Bored to be somewhat popular has always been a hope of mine but such popularity comes with the responsibilty to feed the reading masses. That’s kinda freaking me out a little. Before I got a touch of dicipline on the novel (about a week ago) I was blogging like crazy, because I had the time. Now though I’m a little afraid that i won’t be able to balance the two!
Then again, the net giveth and the net taketh away, so maybe it won’t be an issue.
04/02/2010 at 4:59 am
If I hear about a Finland killing spree, I’ll know exactly what happened, haha!
Kill me before I ever become a writer for Neighbours. Or Home and Away. Or anything equally as bad – I don’t have TV any more so there may well be some new show equally as terrifying as those two that I don’t know about… But I think you’re right about employment opportunities – totally different industry, I imagine.
Gosh, 98 hits!? How did you achieve such fame?
I’m dawdling along here thinking that my record of 47 hits was good… ain’t got nothin’ on you! I only got that many (and have been getting around 20 a day since) because I got linked by a bigger, much more important website… Congrats on your blog taking off. How long has it taken you to get to this point?
As for excerpts… I can imagine it’d be a hard choice… You want something that tells us a lot about the major concerns of the novel without giving too much away – I wish you luck in your struggle with that! As for WHEN… now. Just bite the bullet and get some stuff out there! Maybe it’ll help you get motivated just a bit more every day – writing is such a solitary thing that (especially with first drafts!) you need to check in the world every now and then just to make sure it’s not all getting too internal.
AHHHHH! It’s just started raining! Now it starts to cool down…Thank God! My day can only get better from here.