For several months, publicity around the forthcoming documentary and book about J.D. Salinger has promised major revelations about the author. The biggest hints in the theatrical trailer imply that the writing Salinger did in seclusion after his final publication in 1965 would eventually see the light of day.
This morning, the The New York Times reports that the book and movie “include detailed assertions that Mr. Salinger instructed his estate to publish at least five books — some of them entirely new, some extending past work — in a sequence that he intended to begin as early as 2015.”
This is, of course, a believe-it-when-we-see-it situation. But it does align with things I have heard since Salinger’s death that rank a little higher than rumor. Continue reading
At the center of the many characters and plot lines in David Gilbert’s new novel & Sons is an aging New York novelist named A.N. Dyer. Dyer’s debut work about young men in a Northeastern boarding school is an American classic, beloved by almost all who read it, most of whom do so as teenagers. Dyer has been deeply secluded in his New York apartment for years (in the opening scene at a funeral, some attendees have brought books to try and get signed). He has been in trouble for a dalliance with a much younger woman. And within 25 pages he has referred to someone as a “sporty bastard.”
The parallels to J.D. Salinger here are obvious. There are other touches throughout the book. Characters crying at the natural history museum. “Fuck You” scrawled on a ceiling. A rain-soaked scene of emotional release at the Central Park carousel. One character, Jeanie Spokes, who works at Dyer’s literary agency and handled correspondence to the famous author, seems to be based on a woman who worked at Salinger’s literary agency and handles letters to the famous author. Dyer’s live-in nurse Gerd bears a passing resemblance to Salinger’s last wife Colleen, a nurse.
But & Sons is not a novelization of the imagined life of J.D. Salinger, and the famously reclusive author is only the most well-represented of several literary fathers here. Continue reading
In the tradition of odd writers giving great commencement speeches, George Saunders offered some wisdom to the class of 2013 recently. It’s been going around the internet, so you may have already come across it. But like most great speeches, it won’t hurt you to go through it again.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
Read the remarks here.
Be excellent to each other.
- Michael Moats
Sparky Sweets, PhD — I assume he has a doctorate in cold rockin’ it — gives a Thug Notes review of The Catcher in the Rye, and he’s keeping it real Holden Caulfield.
Don’t let all the bent-ass shit of adulthood get you down.
- Michael Moats
Neil Gaiman’s latest novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not a children’s story.
Not because it is too violent or scary — the story is sinister, at times savage, and very sad. But most of the danger feels safely constrained, and rounded off at the sharp corners, much like the fairy tales it echoes, where there is always a magical antidote to some evil and stories tend to end happily.
Nor is the book out of reach of a young audience, particularly. Children will read and enjoy the tale of a seven-year old and his eleven year-old friend warding off mystical forces that mean them harm. They will recognize both the pleasant and unpleasant adults, who at least start out seeming like people who would fit perfectly well into a Roald Dahl story (the children’s ones). Even still, the novel is not written for kids, and they may miss the heart of the story unless they revisit it later.
I feel the need to make this clear because Ocean is a quick and bracing read, and it would be easy to blow through it and think, “Another nice YA piece from Gaiman*.” But that would be missing the point, because Ocean is not a kid’s book. Ocean is a book about a childhood memory, and children don’t have childhood memories, much less can they know the importance of childhood memories as they ripple through years. Children don’t know what it’s like to return to a place you believed was an ocean, and see that it’s only a pond. Continue reading
Here’s a quick summary of every Ayn Rand novel and the Objectivist philosophy she championed. Now you can skip John Galt’s forty-page, angry tenth grader spew of Tea Party garbage in Atlas Shrugged, and just get to the part where the rich people watch everyone die.
- Michael Moats
The quote in this post’s title comes from Holden Caulfield, and precedes by a decade Salinger’s reaction to an offer from the Book Find Club for Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.
“I preferred to have nothing to do with book clubs, any book clubs…” And: “The Book Find Club offer is so horrible it’s almost beautiful.”
Salinger’s disdain comes by way of some recently unearthed letters, which you can read more on here.
And if you’re curious about the ways Salinger was like The Real Holden Caulfield, check here.
- Michael Moats