Saturday, January 30, 2010
Who you callin' a recluse?
Apart from his publications that ceased decades ago, Salinger has been getting his share of recently ignited posthumous attention after living out the last nearly half century of is life as a media endorsed "recluse," before dying at 91 this week.
For the past five decades he was a resident of Cornish, New Hampshire, a town touted for harboring its share of "reclusive" artists. Salinger got out and about—church suppers, book stores-- and maybe stayed home just as often, like many folks do in towns where the population is 1700 or there about. While his widow thanked the town for affording her husband "a place of awayness from the world," is that what makes a recluse? Who doesn't want some "awayness?"
Are not writers solitary creatures? Try writing productively in a crowd. Or at least while engaging with the crowd. Do not writers, perhaps, create believable and memorable characters because they observe more than they engage? And might not writers decide that writing for public consumption isn't what matters to them? So they stop. And might they tire of endless public evaluation of their work? And shouldn't they be granted this gracefully… no questions asked, or speculative magnifying glasses aimed their way?
Recluse? Is that what we call someone who once gave us good tales, and then stopped providing them for whatever reason? What about the other residents of Cornish? The…regular people. Were they recluses because they lived in a small town that afforded them privacy? And what is privacy anyway? Can you not be as private camouflaged on a crowded sidewalk in a city of 500,000 other souls to whom you don’t even raise an eye?
John David Salinger was a man, just a man. He wrote, and was published, and we read his stories and liked them or not. But now he's gone… leaving some of his words behind, and maybe, hopefully, many more hidden. Recluse. Who knows? Who cares? And what's the big deal anyway?
Salinger was who he was, and now he will now be redefined, many times, post death. He was a man, just a man. But we'll pull him back into the limelight now, poor guy.
I hope to hell that when I do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody. ~J. D. Salinger