“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.
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Emdashes, founded in 2004, is written and drawn by Emily Gordon, Martin Schneider, Pollux, Jonathan Taylor, and Benjamin Chambers, as well as occasional guest contributors. All posts before October 2008 are by Emily Gordon.