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Much of his short fiction though remains unpublished and there is also the hope (probably unfounded) that there may be some unpublished works in his safe that could at last see light of day.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