Saturday, January 30, 2010

J.D. Salinger

(I write this in full confidence that, unlike that time when I referred to Gillian Anderson as "misused" and incurred some fanboy wrath, no one Googles™ "J.D. Salinger" regularly to pick semantic fights.)
I never liked J.D. Salinger's work.
At least not at the time that I was expected to: I don't know, sometime between the age of nine and thirteen maybe ?
I didn't like Holden Caulfield and was annoyed by Franny and Zooey, a book whose only actual contribution to Western Civilization was that it provided the name of one of the Deschanel sisters.Emily, however, was not named 'Franny.' Or 'Seymour.' I resented the circular and specious "debates" engendered and perpetuated about his writings, his hokey reclusiveness, and the pocketbook convenience of his approaches to psychology and spirituality.
But what made me most dislike Salinger was his fans.
I had developed unfair stances against popular icons since my early adolescence -- based almost entirely on my opinion of habitu├ęs. I went through a period of intense Led Zeppelin dislike because of the jerks in my junior high school who would write ZEPP RULES on every available surface. I couldn't understand the Trans Am versus Corvette hostility carried on by the school parking lot cigarette-smokers either, but I can determine it as the beginning of my American "muscle" car aversion. (I still only like a Firebird if driven by James Garner. Oh snap... I forgot that I loved my Mustang.)
My high school curriculum assumed that students had picked up Catcher in the Rye over the Summer between Eighth Grade and Freshman year, appreciated its example that intense self-absorption is a boring dead end, and moved on to the next book on the reading list: Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals.
Certain college dorm rooms teemed with those examples of extended infantilism like unicorn posters, stuffed animals, and copies of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters which seemed never to have been read, but were placed reverentially on a shelf directing some sort of shamanistic power over a certain clique of she-scholars.
Between drags of Marlboro Lights and sips of an older sister's red wine, they asserted that they were "feminists." Which is to say that they were preposterously and unbecomingly miffed by common campus terms like "Freshman Ten" and "girl." For a brief period, your Third Mate retained a fluctuant sodality with several members of that soi-disant sorority.
It would be fair to depict my ante-collegiate social life as a diverse range of positive, mostly comic, coeducational sporting events. Why I traded that playfulness for the crushing weight of "grown-up" dating that seemed de rigueur with those university termagants, I'll never know. It took only a few Fridays wasted on impenetrably awful foreign films and the stink of clove cigarettes for me to accept that I would only ever be chump and never champion.
I wish I could recount with some plucky Salinger parody the insult that clinched it for me. But the setting was not one for the Glasses. A hill high over Worcester as imperious college kids recreate an imaginary tableau from Great Gatsby. Croquet mallets click colorful props and traffic whizzes by the college road, not noticing the affected and meretricious half-dozen by the picnic blanket. A scold -- swaddled in a costume of full-length slips and costume jewelry to inaccurately provide a sense of a flapper's insouciance -- turns to a gentleman in a smart grey wool suit and boater.
"You're... unfinished."
"I'm sorry. A car just passed playing Tom Tom Club. Did I hear you try to say that I was unpainted furniture?"

And that's why I'm not particularly broke up about Salinger's death.
Besides the "I thought he was already dead" thing.

(This presentation includes a photograph of Emily Deschanel and Zooey Deschanel.)


Karie said...

"Catcher" irritated me from page one, and I agree about Garner.

But, I still like muscle cars, Corvette beats Trans Am any day and ZEPP RULES!

(my sympathy to the family and friends of JDS.)

LouCap said...

Wait, how can someone die twice?!? Ohhh, he's the literary version of Abe Vigoda.

PJ said...

Abe Vigoda is still with us.
So there's TWO reasons to rejoice.