At least for this week or so, J.D. Salinger is as brilliantly alive to a world of readers as he has been any day for decades. Among the many moving tributes, one by The New Yorker’s Lillian Ross stands above the rest. A friend of Salinger’s for five decades, Ross writes a tribute with feeling and intimacy. Several moments stand out.
He loved children:
After watching his son, Matthew, playing one day, he said, “If your child likes—loves—you, the very love he bears you tears your heart out about once a day or once every other day.” He said, “I started writing and making up characters in the first place because nothing or not much away from the typewriter was reaching my heart at all.”
Salinger was generous with writers he admired:
When he read a story of mine about kids skipping around a Maypole in Central Park, he wrote to me, “The first and last thing you’ve done is to redeem everything, not just make everything bearable.”
He found simple pleasures:
He told me that one day he went out and bought an iron, and had his housekeeper iron his shirts. “How it cheered me up,” he said.
Interesting how a man — whose work is alreadly immortal — gains, in death, a strange flare-up of deeply human presence among a world of many who may have long taken his body for granted.
BONUS: Also brilliant in its off-handed rightness is the Onion’s news piece, “Bunch Of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger.”
CORNISH, NH—In this big dramatic production that didn’t do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. “He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers,” said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don’t have to look at them for four years. “There will never be another voice like his.” Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it’s just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.
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