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.