Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Ardent Heart

I knew J.D. Salinger. But he did not know me. I could not call him up whenever I felt like it. No one could. Because I knew J.D. Salinger like you knew him, the way he wanted to be known, through his work.
Umapagan Ampikaipakan mourns the passing of a favourite author in The New Straits Times, and he remembers how he read Catcher in the Rye at 13 :
I did not know J.D. Salinger then. All I knew was what some kid told me at school. He told me that John Lennon was dead, that someone had killed him, and that he done so after reading this particular book. ... For weeks afterwards, I would pore over the 192 pages of my tattered red and white Penguin edition, scanning through its minuscule 10-point font, for hidden messages, for secret codes. For something, anything, that would inspire murder. I read it forwards. I read it backwards. Needless to say, I discovered very little.
I remember reading the novel when I wasn't much older (probably 15 - in those days I had a very long bus journey to school and that was my perfect reading time). It was the quintessential teenage novel, the one that you had to read. 

But it was only last year that I came across his short fiction in Nine Stories (a tatty copy that Dina Zaman wanted "rehomed") and would consider myself haunted by the stories (particularly the autobiographical For Esme With Love and Squalor) and hungry for more.

Much of his short fiction though remains unpublished and there is also the hope (probably unfounded)  that there may be some unpublished works in his safe that  could at last see light of day. I hope so.

Do read Adam Gopnik's moving piece about Salinger in The New Yorker. As he quite rightly says  :
Writing, real writing, is done not from some seat of fussy moral judgment but with the eye and ear and heart; no American writer will ever have a more alert ear, a more attentive eye, or a more ardent heart than his.

(Pic from The New Yorker)

10 comments:

Greenbottle said...

at 13 he did that? im 100% sure he isn't being truthful.at 13 most kids don't know shit.

and i know for a fact that even at ripe old age of thirty and above tere are idiots who read harry fucking potter...

****

he remembers how he read Catcher in the Rye at 13 :

I did not know J.D. Salinger then. All I knew was what some kid told me at school. He told me that John Lennon was dead, that someone had killed him, and that he done so after reading this particular book. ... For weeks afterwards, I would pore over the 192 pages of my tattered red and white Penguin edition, scanning through its minuscule 10-point font, for hidden messages, for secret codes. For something, anything, that would inspire murder. I read it forwards. I read it backwards. Needless to say, I discovered very little.

bibliobibuli said...

something wrong with being a good reader by 13? they do exist y'know.

and yes, i agree that there are a very large number of what i call politely adult "marginal readers".

umapagan said...

How very rude. ;)

bibliobibuli said...

someone else just emailed me to say the same thing, Uma! Greenbottle, you are outa line and really should say sorry.

Jane Sunshine said...

RIP JD Salinger. My favourite Salinger was Franny & Zooey (in fact, my fav all time book). This is my tribute from a sometime ago, with love and squalor:

http://splenderfulchronicles.blogspot.com/2006/02/my-intellectual-mrbig.html

Greenbottle said...

Mr uma and sharon;

i do apologize...really. i don't know what gets into me...my "greenbottle psyche" is very obnoxious a lot of times...but we're among book lovers and 'friends(?) so please don't take it to heart. anybody who loves "catcher in the rye" is my soulmate...but you know it's really difficult to think that a 13 year old is so mature and ...oh never miund...i'm just comparing to my 13 yr old self which was completely retarded.

sorry friends...

p.s ; i'm now in singapore airport on my way to n delhi and then to varanasi...so i guess (even as a practicing muslim) i can try to clease myself and be a little bit purer in my heart once i get back...

bibliobibuli said...

forgiven LOL

there are some books i think i read too young, but still loved. and when i returned to them later realised that i hadn't read them well enough. one example is "Lolita", and another "To kill a mockingbird". However, i don't think we should underestimate young readers, especially those with a lot of reading behind them already.

Lee Ee Leen said...

I read 'Wuthering Heights' when I was 10 (non abridged version) and 'Brideshead Revisited' when I was 14.

when it comes to reading, age doesn't enter into it. Some people neverstart at all

Damyanti said...

I had read Anna Karenina, Madam Bovary, Tale of Two Cities, a whole lot of Maugham and Chekov by the time I was 13, and I don't think it is impossible at all. yes, I probably revisited them as an adult and picked up the nuances I had missed as a child.

If you read you read, age doesn't come into the equation...

Anonymous said...

FWIW greenbottle, I started reading at 7. I wouldn't say it's made my life any better for it though.