J.D. Salinger

A Young Jerry Salinger.

J.D. Salinger is becoming even more in the spotlight than usually right now, because of the “American Masters” program about him that is being shown on PBS.  I’ve already watched it twice.

The Elderly Jerry Salinger.

No other book ever affected me like “The Catcher in the Rye.”  I’m 71 now and I am still affected by it just the same whenever I re-read it. I’m not sure if this book affected other generations the same as mine, which I consider the generation that came of age in the 1960’s.

I remember back in the early 60’s when I was a student at San Francisco State Collage (now it’s called San Francisco State University), I took this literature class in which the teacher on the first day put down “Catcher in the Rye.” as trite and insignificant.  I dropped the class.  I’ve always found that people who don’t appreciate this book is only because they can’t understand what is going on or identify with Holden Caulfield.  It takes a certain kind of mentality and background.  People who aspire to the middle-class, and love the status quo, I’ve found don’t like it.  Misfits love it.  The four books below are his entire published work that is in book form.  I have each book linked to the book on Amazon.


Zooey is his most religious story.  I think Zooey tells you all you need to know about how to be happy, but one needs to read Franny first, because it’s a prequel to Zooey. His religion is quintessentially Buddhist.   He had this notion that this world is of no consequence, money and status mean nothing.  I think he makes the point over and over that money and social status have nothing to do with happiness, even though society is all about these things, and people who understand this, love J.D. Salinger.

Salinger loves his characters so much, is why, I think that the reader comes to love them so much.  I think I love Seymour the most.

Time for me to reread these.

The PBS program on American Masters is really good.  He seemed to only go for really young and innocent girls, and when they were not so young and innocent anymore, it was so long.  All his stories are about young people, too.  I think he is so obsessed with youth because he was still obsessed with his own youth.  His attraction for young women seemed to be more spiritual than physical (according to the PBS film). I think because those were the types closest to his own mind.  They were not yet worldly, but as soon as they became worldly, like wanting to make money from writing about him, he dropped them.   He didn’t think one should write to make money, which is why he published so little.  One should make art only for the joy of it.  This is a very Buddhist idea.

The Buddha left his wife and child to go off and find nirvana.  Salinger, in his own way, did the same thing.

Seyour an Introduction by J.D. Salinger

200px-SeymoreintroductionAs is, its prequel, Rise High the Roof Beam Carpenters, Seymour an Introduction is narrated by the second oldest son in the Glass family, Buddy Glass.

You probably are reading this (this may be a delusion on my part) to find out what this story is all about.  It’s about the poet/painter/seer and how it feels to not fit in, but be able to see everything clearer than everyone else.  Seymour was a genuine poet/seer and he kills himself because the pain of seeing the tragic lives of the average person, and especially the people he loves the most, more than he can bear.  His view of everyone is just like Christ would have viewed the world around him.  And like Christ, Seymour is destroyed.  Seymour dies at 31.  I think Christ died at 33 if I’m not mistaken.  Both Seymour and Christ are pure love, something the world can’t tolerate.

This story is told in the first person,  Buddy Glass is talking.  This is a quote from the first page of this story:

“I found out a good many years back practically all I need to know about my general reader; that is to say, you, I’m afraid.  You’ll deny it up and down, I fear, but I’m really in no position to take your word for it.  You’re a great bird lover.”

[No wonder I love J.D. Salinger so much.  He has my number.]