Man…January has turned out to be a pretty cruel month for influential authors of a certain age. Last week we lost “Love Story” scribe Eric Segal and hard-boiled “Spenser” creator Robert B. Parker, and today, the biggest name of them all…the crazy-reclusive, Garbo of literature, J.D. Salinger passed away at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire at the age of 91.
I’m not comparing their talents or anything — yes, amigos, the slowest reader on earth has actually read books by all three of the late greats listed above, so, suck it! — because, really, there is no comparison…Salinger’s “The Catcher In The Rye” is one of my favorite books of all time.
Now, I know everybody says that about “The Catcher In The Rye”, but, it’s true. That book rocked my world when I first read it and though my knowledge of Salinger’s other works comes mostly second-hand from my brother, Ryan — the true Salinger fanatic in our family! — I gotta tell ya, Salinger played a huge role in my development as a writer.
His use of slang and swinging, mid-century prose rattled my brain. I mean, whoa…that book was this shit, man. You weren’t just reading a book for your high school English class, you were cracking open Holden Caulfield’s head and peeking inside the man’s freaky soul, it was insane. Hell, it’s still insane!
“Catcher In The Rye” is one of like, three novels (“East of Eden” and “On The Road” being the other two) that is so good that it actually makes me shake all over when I read it. I wanna highlight every passage, memorize every line and read it aloud to Greta…all at the same time!
All I’m hoping is that the rumors are true and that Salinger left scads of books and short stories behind for us to read in the years to come. His daughter and several of his ex-lovers have mentioned the fact that Salinger wrote like a madman every day of his life…so, I’m guessing at least some of those wild ramblings must be worth reading.
In her 2001 memoir, “Dream Catcher”, Salinger’s daughter, Margaret said that her father actually color-coded his dozens of unpublished manuscripts: “A red mark meant, if I die before I finish my work, publish this ‘as is,’ blue meant publish, but edit first, and so on.”
So, if there is any solace to be found in losing Salinger today, it’s in hoping that some (if not all!) of those cryptic, red-marked manuscripts start bubbling to the surface very soon! Rest in peace, J.D., and here’s hoping you find some much-deserved privacy in the hereafter…