In the Rye

January 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm 2 comments

I had another idea started for today that I will push to another post. But today, I need to pause to acknowledge the passing of J.D. Salinger.

My love of books and stories began as a child. Some of my oldest bits of memory are of my parents making up tales before bed or reading to us. And I am sure they are the ones who instilled a reverence for books:  special items to be taken care of, treated appropriately, even loved.

The first book I can remember reading myself—long before Dick and Jane and Puff and Spot—is “Hop on Pop,” by Dr. Seuss. (Although I would suppose that I wasn’t so much reading at that point as repeating what had been read to us so many times.)

When I was a little older, but when doctors (medical not Seussian) still made house calls, I was once diagnosed as sick from reading too much. (I was very into the Mary Poppins series by P.L. Travers at the time.) And, embarrassing to note, one time in grade school, I bored a friend during a play date because I found Nancy Drew more riveting than her company.

After Nancy Drew (by the fictional Carolyn Keene) and the Hardy Boys (by the fictional Franklin W. Dixon), it was Judy Blume (didn’t every teenage girl read Judy Blume?); then, the ghost story/mystery/romance stage (Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, and, yes, I admit it, those Harlequins); then, the fantasy/adventure genre, which I still enjoy as a brainless treat now and then.

Somewhere in that mix, for a book report in 5th or 6th grade, I got a hold of a copy of  “Catcher in the Rye” and presented it as my choice for a book report. This was in a Catholic grade school mind you, and I got pulled aside after class. But the wonderful Mrs. Robick only did so to tell me that the book was probably a little old for me but that she’d let me use it for my report. Her motivation was to encourage me to read it again when I was older. She didn’t want me to miss it. She, too, loved books. (And I have read it again, more than once. And likely again in the very near future.)

In college, thanks to the smart, funny, and inspiring Dr. Strojan, I also discovered Salinger’s other works:  Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters, Seymour-an Introduction, and Nine Stories (which I re-read just a couple of months ago). All of his books sit top-shelf in my house, the place I put my favorites.

If you have never read any of his work and are curious, I’d recommend one of his short stories (The Laughing Man, Down at the Dinghy, or Just Before the War with the Eskimoes) for starters.

Mr. Salinger was one of the first authors who made me fall in love with the written word. Not just the story being told, the mystery being unveiled, the world being created, or the lesson being taught but the way in which any of those things could be written, the way the words sounded, rhythm, pace, the “perfect word,” some spectacular turn of phrase. Salinger could stop me in my tracks and just make me smile with wonder, savor the wordplay, and, yes, inspired me to be A Writer. 

His passing cannot but stop me in my tracks again. To feel a selfish sorrow midway through this not so novel life of mine, but also a nudge toward an old dream.

With respect to this special life preserver, I say, Whatever drew you to a life of solitude, I am forever grateful for that which was shared.

 Fare thee well Mr. Salinger. I hope they don’t put you in a cemetery.

Entry filed under: Life Preservers. Tags: , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shareen  |  January 29, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Thanks for the nudge! Not to sound cheesy but I love your writing style. You totally know how to build the plot and make images appear. From Suess to Blume to a bored play date to Salinger (I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read much by him), I just like your words, my friend! I’m proud of you for making this blog. Keep blogging!!!!

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  • 2. WritingbyEar  |  January 29, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I wish I still had the passion for books I once had. I wish I was still a voracious reader. I wish my mother would still tell me to quit reading and go outside and play. I wish an elementary school librarian still put aside a special shelf in the library for me (behind the normally off-limits pull-up door) and stocked it with books she thought I’d like. I wish I still “worked” in a school library, shelving books and checking them out (the date stamp was great fun). I wish I still had all those beloved books to discover for the first time. And yes, I wish I remembered more about Catcher in the Rye — I’ll have to read it again sometime. Thanks for the suggestion.

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