Friday, January 29, 2010

Dear J.D. Salinger

Dear J.D.,

Just a few weeks ago I pulled out my worn paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye with its solid maroon cover and re-read it, and now I wake to the news that you have died! But wait; didn’t everyone already think you were dead? Being the recluse that you are/have been I suppose it doesn’t matter, but I still have so much to say to you.

Yes, you are most known for that Holden Caufield book everyone, and I mean everyone, reads in high school. It may be the one assigned book kids actually do read. Did you not know you were writing YA? I suppose YA was not a legitimate field back then, I’ll give you that, but it is now, so I can’t help but wonder your thoughts on the matter. Do you know that you paved the way for an entire field of literature? Come on, all that whining, kvetching, in and out of depression, school problems, family problems, girl problems, and on and on…Holden is the perfect YA! I loved him when I was a teen, wanted to help him, save him, marry him even, but alas now I find him petty and childish. Oh, to discover that Holden has never grown up—I am not sure if this is reassuring or horrifying. He belongs to young adults everywhere and they are lucky to have him—even if I no longer do. He is Peter Pan for the older set. But, alas, does this mean that I am actually Wendy?

But I don’t understand how you got away with all that whining. I mean, really. Even the most teen-angst ridden YA protagonists don’t kvetch anywhere close to the amount Holden does. My teenage journals are full of woes and depressing rants, but my editor won’t let me publish those! How did you do it? And what about your plot? Did you forget? Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love your book. I love you for just who are. I even love that you have been a recluse all these years and have NEVER given in to the pressure to write a goddamn sequel to that book! I love Franny and Zooey, too and Nine Stories, and all the other things that most people won’t remember you for.

So my dear, JD, I didn’t realize how much the news of your death would affect me. I liked knowing you were in the world—hiding somewhere and just living your life. I know that life for the creator of Holden Caufield cannot have been easy, and I respect you for everything. I know that you are not your character, but you do know that Holden will live forever, and you do realize that now that you have passed you will most likely fully become him? And that one of the best blurbs I, or any other YA writer can hope for is a comparison to Catcher in the Rye.

Thank you and, even though I am not a religious person, bless you.

Sincerely and most humbly yours,

PS. I meant to ask you about the initials, too. Did you want your readers to not know your gender, or what?

PPS. Don't worry, even though I have theoretically grown-up, I still love Holden (and you). Anyone who believes, “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do you start missing everybody,” goes straight to my pained heart.


  1. Yes. It does seem he just should have always been there, doesn't it?

    I also like the Onion's obit: Bunch of Phonies Mourn JD Salinger

  2. I just used something from TCitR in the STONER sequel. A passing reference to Holden's red hunting hat. I thought it was a kind of deerstalker model, but might be wrong.

    I, too, was very taken with TCitR when I read it at 15 or so. I already had a potty mouth, so I was tight with Holden in a goddamn minute.

    For the record, his name is Jerome David Salinger, I believe.


  3. I would love to read J.D.'s other manuscripts in the safe. Do you think we'll have the chance?