Friday, January 29, 2010

No Words

Writer and hermit J.D. Salinger died this Wednesday at his New Hampshire home. He leaves behind a few collections of stories, one novel, and who knows how much unpublished work. His last published piece was in the New Yorker in 1968. After that, he shunned the limelight, only reappearing in the news to turn down another movie deal or accuse another author of abusing his copyright on Catcher in the Rye.

I understand this inclination to hide. After all, Salinger's great novel was implicated in both the assassination plot on Ronald Reagan and the death of John Lennon. And the great acclaim with which he was treated must have been grating for someone who, possibly, felt as Caulfield did that the world was full of phonies. I'm sure Paris Hilton and the crowd from The Hills only served to cement that belief.

But I wonder at the refusal to continue publishing. According to reports, Salinger continued to write prolifically well into his later years. I wonder what he was afraid of. After all, a work of literature is created to be read, right? We can only hope that, now, his work will be released posthumously. Maybe this way Salinger will be able to interact with the world from a safer distance. And his admirers will have him in their lives again.

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