Letter to J.D. Salinger (RIP)
[This was first posted January 31, 2010, four days after Salinger's passing]
Dear J.D. Salinger, I never wrote you a letter while you were alive. For obvious reasons I saw no point. Now that you're gone, though, this almost makes sense.
J.D., you are the reason I became a writer. The Catcher in the Rye changed the way I look at books. For many years it was the only book that mattered to me. I didn't realize there were Haruki Murakamis and John Steinbecks and other geniuses out there. Not till I was in my twenties did I discover that your other published works were equally phenomenal. But Catcher. I don't care that I'm not the only one. I don't care that I'm no longer 15 or 21. That book still puts me under its spell with its honesty and its passion, with its humor and its lasting power.
I have questions for my literary hero, of course I do. If I could've I'd have asked you why you were as private as you were, why you didn't publish more? Like anyone learning a craft, if I could have I'd have asked you about your process, the standard Paris Review questions, about your daily routine, about how much you revised a given story, how long it took to write a not so little short story like "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period?" I like to think we could have shared a long coffee without an awkward silence, you and I, but that's probably a lot like thinking, as I stood in line waiting my turn at the end of a New Yorker festival talk a couple years ago, that it would be different when I went up to thank Jhumpa Lahiri, that she wouldn't be so cold and distant with me - ha! J.D., you probably just wanted peace and quiet. I hope you got as much as you needed. If not, I suspect you get your share now. (And I don't mean that facetiously.)
Thus instead of outlining any more selfish wishes of what I wish I could have gotten from meeting you, I'll instead tell you what you gave me: