Salinger's Death

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G. Muffin
Salinger's Death

Has me thinking about this fellow:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_David_Chapman

I wasn't aware of this connection until now. From my brief read, I'd say MDC was psychotic at the time of the crime. If so, he should have been incarcerated in a hospital not a jail.  I'm not a Szaszian, although I appreciate his work.

G. Muffin

I believe there's a CAPA PsychOUT proposal in here somewhere.

G. Muffin

G. Muffin wrote:

Has me thinking about this fellow:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_David_Chapman

I wasn't aware of this connection until now. From my brief read, I'd say MDC was psychotic at the time of the crime. If so, he should have been incarcerated in a hospital not a jail.  I'm not a Szaszian (I dare say TS would want MDC executed), although I appreciate his work.

ETA:  Changes are in italics.  I don't know why it re-posted.  Oh, yes, I do.  Because you can't edit your first [email protected]#$% post.

skdadl

I don't know much about psychiatric categories, but it sounds to me as though Chapman was coping with devils that were at least partly physiological. Others will know better how the definitions work, but if he was hearing voices, that's real, and it's a problem.

 

He also sounds to me intelligent and sensitive. I don't want to put words in their mouths, but I suspect that, if John and Yoko hadn't been the objects of his frenzy, they might have thought so too. I don't know how you measure what his childhood experiences did to what may have been a predisposition, but it seems to me that in cases like these, at least we know that we're not looking at either stupidity or malice, but something ... else.

 

My feelings about Salinger are complicated, but he is connected to Chapman only in the way that Lennon was -- Chapman had irrational obsessions, and just about anyone skilled in articulating the frustrations and longings of adolescence -- as both Salinger and Lennon were -- could have become a touchstone for him. Those were the two he found.

 

Like Lennon (or, for that matter, the Goethe of Werther), Salinger deserves to be honoured in his own terms, for his own work, not for the extraliterary effects he undoubtedly had on a lot of people. Catcher in the Rye is a hard book for a lot of literary people to cope with because it is undeniably a great piece of writing, as clean and smooth as anything Hemingway ever did, and yet it connects so strangely to that adolescent phenomenon, the first discovery that adults are "phony" -- ie, hypocrites -- and the rage that many young people feel when they first perceive that about the world they're moving into as they become adults themselves.

 

There isn't anything in the novel that would protect from the anger/despair/whatever, and maybe there shouldn't be, It's a novel. Novelists do what they do. Salinger testified, and anyone who has ever tried to get the words right, to tell the truth instead of making things pretty, knows just how hard that is and how much Salinger accomplished. All honour to him for his writing.

 

That said ... I admire the book, but I turned away from it myself, even more so from his later stories. I know about depression; I fight depression myself; but I don't think I value it in the way that I feel Salinger did. His biography is problematic in other ways, if you're not judging on literary grounds alone.

G. Muffin

Please expand, if you have the time, skdadl.  I know nothing of Salinger beyond the obligatory Grade 9 reading of Catcher in the Rye.  What made you "turn away"? 

Papal Bull

When I first tried reading that book - October, 2001 - I couldn't do it. I already knew that adults could be phony. I didn't Holden to tell me that.

 

When I got older I got more out of the book. Adolescence makes a bit more sense (kind of) in hindsight.

skdadl

Well, I won't do the whole bibliography for you, but after Catcher, Salinger mainly wrote novellas and short stories for a while, and then he quit publishing altogether. The stories -- like Franny and Zooey, eg -- are easy to find and are interesting for a while as portraits of sensitive young people (often members of one family, the Glass family) who are seeking spiritually, if you want to see it that way, and you can. Many do.

 

They are what they are; I don't think I could read them again. All I can say is that I came to think about depression differently, and Salinger began to make me uncomfortable on that turf. If I'm going to get intense and earnest, I've found more literary help in, eg, William Styron, Darkness Visible, which actually helped me to think about my husband's dementia as well. Brilliant, generous piece of writing.

 

Salinger's official -- and I guess sincere, at a conscious level -- reason for becoming a recluse was his revulsion at the corrupting effects of North American celebrity, and we can all admire that, or at least say we do. I'm sure he felt that at one level, and believed it explained everything, justified everything. But he ended up doing some very odd things -- I don't know; maybe eccentricities were his way of coping, were what kept him strong and purposeful. He made it to 91, after all, living a pretty spartan life, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he's left a lot of unpublished stuff behind.

 

There's a very complicated story about 53-yr-old Salinger's affair with a barely post-adolescent Joyce Maynard that I won't attempt to summarize but which you can get the gist of in [URL=http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/09/13/reviews/980913.13pollitt.html]Katha Pollitt's good review[/URL] of Maynard's memoirs. This story partly caught my attention because the Maynards had Canadian connections -- Fredelle, mama, was a Saskatchewan girl with a Harvard PhD who published an admired book called Raisins and Almonds when I was just starting out in Can pub; Rona, Joyce's older sister, became an editor of Chatelaine. The excerpts I read from Maynard's memoirs ended up creeping me out -- both she and Salinger bothered me. Pollitt puts it this way:

 

Quote:
The author of ''The Catcher in the Rye,'' for whose hero, Holden Caulfield, the supreme insult is ''phony'' and whose sentimentality is so keen he can't bring himself to throw a snowball at a fire hydrant, homes in on a young writer who avidly sought assignments from Family Circle and Mademoiselle; the phobic hermit seeks out the naive exhibitionist -- Maynard went on to chronicle every aspect of her life from marriage and bruising divorce to her breast implants and their removal in newspaper columns, magazine articles, a newsletter and even a Web site (www.joycemaynard.com); the writer who won't allow his photo on his dust jackets falls for a girl because she is pictured on the cover of The Times Magazine looking as fey and gamine as Phoebe Caulfield or Esme. Where's Nabokov when you need him?

 

What can I tell ya? Yeah.

 

I dunno. They went down roads that I lost interest in.

 

 

Caissa

I dug out my old copy of Catcher last night and will be giving it a nostalgic re-read next week.

Ghislaine

[url=http://www.theonion.com/content/news/bunch_of_phonies_mourn_j_d] Bunch of Phonies Mourn JD Salinger [/url]

Quote:

In this big dramatic production that didn't do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. "He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers," said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don't have to look at them for four years. "There will never be another voice like his." Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it's just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.

Papal Bull

The thing that I have with JD Salinger's death is that it was the same day as Howard Zinn. That's two very different figures of American bookery that died on the same damned day. Same day as the iPad was announced. Spooky.

 

January 27th, 2010. Weird day in America.

Unionist

Amusing, Ghislaine.

skdadl

LOL, Ghislaine and PB too.

G. Muffin

Amusing, the both of you.

And, skdadl, thank you for taking the time to flesh out my understanding of Salinger.  What with you and wikipaedia, I feel qualified to write on the subject.  :)

P.S. I have half a science degree and bombed 62% on my LSAT.  I'm many things but I'm not a "phony"; I'm the real deal.  Let me know if you're up for some editing.  I'm looking to hire.

skdadl

I'm retired, Muffin, and not always strong, but I'm always ready to talk to a friend.

G. Muffin

skdadl wrote:
I'm retired, Muffin, and not always strong, but I'm always ready to talk to a friend.

Well, I like to think that we're friends, skdadl.  Friends from way back when.  2004 or 2005?

takeitslowly

Skdadl, thats so disturbing..and freaky...

 

Catcher in the Rye is my favorite novel, still, his death overshadowed the death of Howard Zinn.

Both men were no phony, i can say that much.

G. Muffin

I have written a book titled "Why She Died:  The Goodbye Pie."  It's open source and by donation only.  What should I do next, skdadl?

skdadl

I agree with you, takeitslowly. It's always hard to know how to honour a writer's work properly when his, um, challenging biography gets in the way.

 

Can you send it to me electronically, Muffin? I can open in Word or WordPerfect.

G. Muffin

Skdadl, it's splattered all over the interweb.  Do you like my title?

I love it when you call me Muffin.  Reminds me of The Big Chill.

skdadl

Oh, well, it might be a good idea to start pulling it together. Or send me some directions for finding parts anyway.

G. Muffin

You know that I'm EFA, right?  And BlueGrey at Guns 'N' Roses?

ETA:  That "typo" is just too good to fix.

If you google "Francesca Allan," you can see my 2004 letter to Donald Milliken.  You commented favourably upon it way back when.  I believe you said I was a "wonderful writer" (and I've held you dear in my heart ever since).  You also went to bat for me when I was banned the first time from babble by Audra.

Note to Michelle & Oldgoat & Maysie:  We have free speech and everybody's entitled (or should be entitled) to say (almost) anything they want but we're not entitled to a captive audience. Banning me when I'm in that state (insomniac, psychotic, suicidal) is entirely consistent with progressive principles.

Caissa

I re-read Catcher on the weekend. I remembered why it appealed to me as an adolescent. In my mid-forties I found Holden to be more of an object of pathos.