Dave Eggers on JD Salinger

I’m posting this Dave Eggers remembrance of JD Salinger because it’s nice, but mostly because I wanted a place to memorialize the crazy ass 1st comment in case it’s deleted for some reason. The world needs to see stuff like this, and I guarantee that every one of you English majors out there has a sneaking suspicion that you had class with the person who wrote this.

First, Eggers on the possibility that Salinger continued to write:

Of course, the possibility most intriguing—and fictional-sounding—would have Salinger having continued to write for fifty years, finishing hundreds of stories and a handful of novels, all of which are polished and up to his standards and ready to go, and all of which he imagined would be found and published after his death. That, in fact, he intended all along for these works to be read, but that he just couldn’t bear to send them into the world while he lived.

And now the CRAZY! Excuse the length, I quoted the entire thing because I was terrified it would some day disappear. Maybe crazy isn’t the right word… No, it is.

I’m sure this is an inappropriate venue to air these grievances, but after wading through a few ‘vexing’ remembrances, it looks like I’m going to set my thoughts down in writing, and the foot of this graveyard seems as safe as place as any to plant a sword – no one to kill: everyone’s dead. I may get long-winded, so I’ll offer up the point from the get go: the moral of this probably-never-to-be-posted internet comment is do not let middling twits near the obituaries of great men. It is fashionable to dislike Salinger and acceptable to regard him as a demigod. Those who dislike him seem to take offense at his Sincerity (properly capitalized, framed by generous margins), or claim acumen that sees through his characters’ adolescent whining and precious fragility. Those people, I find (and I mean this strictly as an insult), generally have not read Proust and do not like Shakespeare. And then there are his hopeless devotees, not of the assassinating sort, but of the I Am Holden Caulfield, lead eastward by the promise of his brilliant figure type (you can provide the hyphens yourself). These people, I find, generally have not read anything – maybe Lolita, which they mispronounce [Loll- as in lollipop, see: Strong Opinions] and never finished. All of this is to say that like select canons before his, Salinger’s work frequently attracts readers ill-equipped to understand it, which, as both Proust and common sense tell us, is symptomatic of genius. Not of talent, mind you, not even of tremendous talent, but of that most rare and dazzling gift afforded only a handful since creation – the ability to render black and white in color, to settle the darkness without reference to history or constellation, to provide not only essential information about the nature of existence but also a reason to exist. Salinger was a genius. That’s not something to be said lightly or proudly, because it is a terrible and humbling thing to behold: genius is the perpetual state of the terrifying sublime, to behold the mountain and feel small, to register the universe and feel unreal, to witness the passing of the mountain and universe, (I told you I’d get long-winded, but I didn’t say I’d get kooky, clerical oversight, apologies) to, in short, understand that you will die, to know that the conditions of this world are hilariously insignificant and to, therefore, reorient yourself to what is nameless and highest and most frighteningly joyous. Man is not the mountain. I don’t care why he retreated into seclusion; I know there’s no convincing the self-righteously blind that the stars are real and furious and gorgeous. No one should hold out for insight: all I expect is some courtesy. You like his dialogue? I like your shoes. What of the soul?

Posted 1/29/2010, 8:57:48pm by willowfog

Dave Eggers on JD Salinger

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