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January 29, 2010

J.D. Takes His Leave

Salinger-book Editor's Note: This post comes from Jernigan Pontiac, author of Seven Days' regular "Hackie" column. — Margot Harrison

I read the news today, oh boy.
Quite unexpectedly, the report of J.D. Salinger's death hit me emotionally. I mean, the guy hasn't published a word since the mid-'60's, and he spent the last 50 years of his life in recluse-like seclusion at his home, a walled-in compound located in Cornish, New Hampshire. His lifetime literary output amounted to essentially four books, and a couple of them quite slender at that.
But what four books! I know I'm not alone in this among my fellow scribes, but absent Mr. Salinger, I doubt I would have ever taken up the pen. In my experience, nobody but nobody brought the human spirit to life on the written page like this man. I could go on and on about his skills and technique, but here's the heart of the matter for me:  J.D. Salinger didn't hold back; he brought it all; he got it all down. And the story is humanity in its heartbreaking glory — the cynicism and despair, burning desire and fleeting ecstasy.
In my own little world up here in the Green Mountains, I attempt to emulate my literary mentor and likewise bring the page to life, real life. It's a moving target, and once in a sublime while, I feel like I've at least approached the ball park. But, regardless of success or lack thereof, the search continues to bring me happiness. The very process of writing keeps my eyes open to the beauty of this world. In fact, to quote one of Mr. Salinger's famous characters, Seymour Glass, I, too, feel as if under the grip of reverse paranoia: The people in my world are indeed conspiring behind my back, but to make me happy. Thank you, J.D.

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