A Phoney’s Requiem

I hope to hell that when I do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetary. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.

As all and sundry are aware by now, the writer Jerome David Salinger died on Wednesday in the small town of Cornish, New Hampshire where he lived the life of a recluse. Probably, he woud think someone like me is a phoney. Salinger hated phoneys. He hated people who thought they were special, who gave undue attention to people they didn’t know and who pushed in to the world silly, trite and pandering commentaries on things they really weren’t all that qualified to comment upon. Probably, he was right. But still I am going to write this little piece that will most likely not sail further than the unpopulated shores of my own embedded island. But then isn’t that essentially what Salinger did for the past fifty years? I am sure that he wrote and wrote and that one day we will all be gifted with the words that he kept hidden from the world, it was simply that he wished not to be published, he wished not to have his privacy interrupted and fair enough. Fair enough because he was a great writer of his century. A century that saw many talented, skilled, smart-arsey-word-magician writers but so few who were able to put in to words a voice that sunk inside it’s reader or at least made it’s reader want to sink inside it and take it on as their own. He always gives you the feeling that what he writes is exactly what you had thought or felt, if only you had put it down in ink. He either made you want to be a writer or made you marvel at how a writer could write your thoughts, your feelings, your angst. He wrote what he believed. Buddy Glass, one of his characters from the Glass family that permeated much of his stories, said that a writer wasn’t so much someone who created a masterpiece but instead someone who wrote with all his stars out, who wrote exactly what he believed, what he was and to the best of his own abilities and nobody else’s. What Buddy says is what Salinger thinks. He wished to retain a certain purity, the naive bliss of youth. In To Esme, with Love and Squalor and A Perfect Day for Banana Fish Salinger tells us so much about the brutality of war upon the young soul and it’s irreversible effects, the longing for youth and innocence. So many say that Salinger wrote the thoughts and feelings of the post-war youth, that he appeals to a certain reader of a certain age but really for me he writes about loss and longing for what is lost, that we are all a little bit fucked up and pissed off and all we want to really do is return to something or somewhere that was good, real. For Holden this fantasy imagined itself as a field of rye where he would stop the youngsters from jumping over the cliff. Some might read this as the necessary transition we must all make, that is to let go of an impossible desire and move forward in to adulthood, a world of big people. I prefer to read it and linger, immersing myself in Salinger’s version of the world, a sardonic mix of heartbreak and humour, a world he was from but not really ever a part of.

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