Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My computer has been in the shop

My computer has been in the shop for five days.  Five days!  I actually had to read.

I read SALINGER by David Shield and Shane Salerno.  Did you know that J.D. Salinger had only one testicle?  Did you know he was on Utah Beach on D-Day and at the Battle of the Bulge?  Did you know he dated Oona O'Neal Chaplin and never got over her?  Did you know he had PTSD after the war?  Did you know he married a German woman, Sylvia, and divorced her when he learned she had worked for the Gestapo?  Did you know he wrote every day wearing a jumpsuit?  Did you know he sought spirituality all his life and practiced Vedanta Hinduism?

Just as if I were seventeen again, I am consumed with J.D. Salinger.  I've ordered books by his wives and I am rereading the novel and all the stories in light of my new knowledge that he was broken by a war.

When I was a junior in high school, Miss Warburton read us Glass family stories from the New Yorker  in creative writing class.  It was like coming into literary consciousness.


  1. I will never forget hearing you talk during a presentation you gave with Chris Crowe at some conference for Language Arts teachers about discovering the voice of Holden Caulfield--that you didn't know before then that a book could be like that and it helped you discover your own voice. Then you read a passage aloud. And now you and Holden Caulfield are one voice in my head. Loved that. (And the thing I most remember that Chris said was wondering for a good part of the Scarlett Letter where the letter--as in piece of mail--was.)

  2. Yes, Margy. But have you considered what it's like to be married to Holden Caulfield?

  3. You can have J.D. if I get T.S.

  4. When you spoke at Springville library a while back, I was there and won a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, which I originally read at seventeen, and which changed my life. I fell in love with Holden Caulfield. For NPR's three minute fiction contest I wrote a short story about it. Here it is:

    “I’m exhausted, love.” James, lying on the couch, watching Sports Center and eating cold Spaghettios straight from the can. He’s just finished a two-hour engineering final. James, with his long hair in an unruly ponytail and his scruffy black beard. James the hippie. A beautiful man. And he’s all mine.
    I have one final left. Ethics. “It’s all right, I’ll study in your room, if you don’t mind.” James will eventually graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering and I am a painter. But my parents insisted I give higher education a try. I met James six weeks ago in History 1700, a class almost all freshmen have to take. I noticed him the first day, but it took a few weeks before I could finagle a seat beside him and grow spine enough to start a conversation. I know every girl in the room watched me with envy that day. James is that good-looking. But the best thing about him, I have learned, is that he can think. He’s no dullard. He cares about art and politics and history and philosophy. Believe me, there aren’t a lot of engineering majors like that around. Once we started talking, we couldn’t stop, we were up talking all night, every night, at his place, at mine, on campus in the student center and off campus at the coffee shops. Finally, it happened. We had been out for dinner one night with some friends and then we left them and he walked me back to my dorm and there was a light rain and we stood outside for a while and then he leaned in and kissed me. He was just the right height, the crown of my head grazed his nose—I only had to lift my face to his.
    Upstairs, in his room, I am puttering around. I haven’t been up here without him before. He has a big bookcase jammed against the wall opposite his bed. It’s full of old paperbacks, a few textbooks, even some picture books from when he was a kid. I gaze idly at them, I move my fingers along the spines. Most of the books are old and ragged, like he’s read them over and over. Then I see it. On the top shelf in the lefthand corner. The first book on the shelf, if you think about it. A hardcover copy of The Catcher in the Rye. It looks like it’s straight from the 1950s. Can’t be a first edition, can it? I pull it down. It’s on both our top-ten lists of best books ever. We each read it in high school. I told James, “Holden Caulfield is the first boy I ever truly loved.” He replied, “That book saved my life.”
    I open it, a bit absently, to the title page. I almost gasp. I sit down on the bed. I’m that surprised. Is this real? But it’s there, right there, Salinger’s signature. Scrawled in black ink: “For Gwen, aspiring writer and dear friend, all my love, JD Salinger.”
    But James never said a word.
    And we had a monumental conversation about this book.
    Who was Gwen? Doesn’t matter. I shut the book. I don’t even think. I put it in my backpack. I go back downstairs. I say it casually, “Maybe I’ll just head over to the library and study there. I can’t concentrate here.”
    “Okay.” He is still lounging on the couch. “See ya later tonight?”
    “Of course.”
    Of course not. This changes everything. Anyway, like I said, James isn’t my first love. Holden is.

  5. Thanks Callie. Holden Caulfield changed my life too. I'm looking forward to spending some more time with him.