Something that comes through the documentary about J. D. Salinger in the American Masters series on PBS is not his reclusiveness, for he had many friends, so was not so much a recluse, as a loner, but his love of writing. It is not specifically said, but looking at his life it is obvious.
Consider that the publication of “Catcher in the Rye” gave Salinger world wide literary fame. He could have given numerous interviews, taught writing at prestigious universities, gone the cocktail party circuit, been a square on Hollywood Squares, promoted other novels on radio and television and other book promo ventures. But it is clear fame held no interest.
But writing did hold his interest, writing in self imposed quietude far from sycophantic well wishers, false friends, and what he perceived, rightly so, of the phonies that surrounds fame. Instead of celebrating himself, he celebrated writing. He had to be obsessive about writing, for who would write every day for decades and not publish anything. Salinger was in his own world, the characters he wrote were his family. Now you may think him crazy, but writers are a bit loony to begin with, some loonier than others. Not to imply Salinger was more loony. In fact he may have been saner. I say that because his obsession had to evolve from his love of writing, of creating the world of Holden Caulfield, of the Glass family, of his other unpublished works, which as I wrote in the previous blog will be released beginning in 2015, continuing through 2020.
Thus he has, in some sense, no pretensions. Salinger wrote, I suspect, to explore his questions, his demons, to work out things that bothered him, to explore his own experience. I know I write to go into another time, another place, to explore my own questions about people and life. The fact two of my novels begin with the word ‘loonies’ in some sense reveals my world view.
What I like about Salinger is his act of purity, by that, I mean he wrote for himself, in his world, through his characters. It was I think a form of therapy. Because he did not publish anything for decades makes him the pure indy writer. And beginning in 2015 he will once again be sharing his world. I hope his work will add to his reputation, not detract from it. But no matter the critical response in coming years, he is resting in a quietude where he will not be bothered. He has made his final escape and now is truly reclusive.
My website: http://terrynelson.net/