Friday, January 29, 2010

Just One Book, But a "Huge Upwelling" (Updated)

We were primed to throw down a hasty appreciation of J.D. Salinger but felt inadequate to the task after reading the insight from Tony Hoagland of the UH writing program that someone from the Houston Chronicle artfully inserted into its pick-up of the L.A. Times' obituary of Salinger (Hoagland, by the way, is a fearsomely good poet whose "Lucky" can break your heart, if you have one):

"Salinger broke through so many walls. He articulated the internal life, with all
its moods and contradictions and ironies. When Holden is seeking refuge in his
teacher's apartment and suddenly the teacher is rubbing his head and that feels
strange to Holden, the moment is real. … The book was a huge upwelling of: ‘This
is life that has not been described before but that we all recognize.' You feel
the generosity Salinger has towards human nature and you really feel included in
To that we can only add that the other genius of Catcher in the Rye is the way it speaks so directly to the sensitive or at least half-sensitive 15 year old (of all ages), which we suppose is the reason they assign it in the high schools these days. Our own 15 year old informed us of Salinger's passing and expressed wonder at the eerie "coincidence" of his death, the coincidence being that her English class had just started reading Catcher.

We mentioned that she's 15, right?

Update: We initially found a truncated version of the above-mentioned story on the Chronicle's Web site late Friday afternoon in the "Celebrity Buzz" section. We can't channel the dead, just yet, but we're pretty sure this isn't where Salinger pictured himself, post-mortem. Meanwhile, our 20-year-old, who tells us that, surprisingly, he's never read Catcher in the Rye but seems to have a deep and learned knowledge of Nine Stories and Raise High the Roof Beam, which we drew on to refresh our faded memories of those tales, informed us of a too-perfect headline he saw (from The Onion, it appears): "Bunch of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger."

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