“If Mr. Salinger is around town, perhaps he’d like to come in and talk to me about New Yorker stories.” So William Keepers Maxwell, Jr., The New Yorker’s fiction editor, wrote in 1947. Salinger would contribute several short stories to The New Yorker that year, beginning a career that was at once fascinating and strange, and in many ways, tragic.
There seems to be only one photo of J.D. Salinger: the black-and-white author photo that graced millions of copies of Catcher in the Rye. There are, of course, other photos of Salinger, but he will remain for us the young author with the 1950’s style haircut and intelligent face whose stories have become required reading in the library of American literature.
Salinger intrigued us because he was the combination of two American tales: the instant literary celebrity and the famous recluse. Salinger did what most of us are sometimes tempted to do but know we shouldn’t do: hermetically seal himself against the world and close himself to all but the most minimal communication and interaction with the world.
“Although the myth of J.D. Salinger has been partially eroded by recent biographies and memoirs,” Raychel Haugrud Reiff has written in her book on J.D. Salinger, “the myth of Holden Caulfield remains. He will always be the sixteen-year-old whose sense of alienation in a phony, corrupt world speaks to readers worldwide.”
For us here at Emdashes, J.D. Salinger was one of the many figures in an intriguing pantheon of New Yorker writers. Last year we celebrated the fact that we could read his last published piece, “Hapworth 16, 1924”.
We hoped for, as many have hoped for, that Salinger would have published more. But Salinger has passed from life into history, disappearing from the scene as mysteriously as the ducks on the lagoon in Central Park South.
Hello! I’m Emily Gordon, a content strategist, critic, and copywriter. Emdashes, born in 2004, spent its formative years as a New Yorker fan blog. (The project garnered some nice compliments and press.) It’s now a collection of conversations—generally civilized—about punctuation, magazines, movies, design, and other things that stir me.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a small army of culture writers, editors, and artists. You can read all about the people who've helped build Emdashes here at “Who We?” (That’s a New Yorker joke. Old habits die hard.)
I welcome submissions, questions, corrections, and ardent, obsessive contributors. I also host occasional book-related contests and giveaways. Questioners and publishers, just email me.
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The original Emdashes pencil logo was designed by Jennifer Hadley, based on a 1943 Dorothy Gray ad.