By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi
Months ago when I read in The New York Times that a documentary was going to be released on J. D. Salinger and that the force behind this “mock-u-mentary”, had done “extensive research”, albeit without the support of the Salinger family, I felt ill. For some years I have had my college students read the The Catcher in the Rye. The nuanced character of Holden Caulfield shines forth like a beacon of pathos, humor, and hope. While not all of my students over the years have fallen in love with the linguistic acrobatics of Salinger’s work, they do admit they learned to appreciate the narrative structure of The Catcher in the Rye. I understand: I am not enthusiastic about John Dos Passos’ Nostromo, but I came to respect the work itself.
I had just returned to my office after class on January 28, 2010. We had engaged in a spirited discussion of Holden’s relationship with his sister Phoebe and his departed brother Allie. Decompressing, I opened The New York Times webpage to see that J. D. Salinger had died that very day. Stunned, I reached for my copy of his Nine Stories, and re-read every one. It comforted me to read about these finely drawn characters and to hear the rhythm of Salinger’s prose. Opening my well-worn copy of The Catcher in the Rye, I took heart in reading Holden’s introduction of himself on page one. The richness of Salinger’s characters, their angst, and for me, always the uniqueness of the language, brought me solace over the death of a beloved author.
In our cultural lust for any morsel of scandal, our insatiable delight in feigned aghast at perceived wretched behavior, we now have the H. Weinstein-S.Salerno purported “documentary” of Salinger, God help us. Today Weinstein announced he is backing a movie about Salinger, for which Salerno is going to pen the screenplay. All I can ask is, How low can we go? And the answer is, Pretty darn low. The pimping of Salinger has begun.
The New York Times ran multiple articles of Salinger after his death. One that particularly caught my eye was from the Cornish Journal entitled “J.D. Salinger a Recluse? Well, Not to His Neighbors” in Cornish, New Hampshire, who very much liked him and zealously protected his privacy from 1953 on. To the Cornish residents he was simply “Jerry”. They were aware of his literary fame, but they respected his craving for privacy. Now that J. D. Salinger is dead, the name of the game seems to be Let’s Make a Buck Dredging Up Whatever. This shameless lack of decency recently regarding Salinger merits nothing but revulsion because we know that those who spew this bile race after the Almighty Dollar. It is worth noting that the man who refused to have The Catcher in the Rye turned into a film, is now himself the subject of one. If we listen closely, we can hear J. D. Salinger turning over in his grave.
Ciao for now.