“Is it wrong to wish death on a writer so that you can see what he's been up to?” said John Capone in NBC Los Angeles. J.D. Salinger, author of the classic The Catcher in the Rye, turned 90 on Thursday, presumably in Cornish, New Hampshire, where he’s lived in seclusion for the past 50 years or so.
“Salingerologists, of whom there are still a great many,” said Charles McGrath in The New York Times, have “all kinds of theories” as to what the elusive author has been up to all these years. “He hasn’t written a word. Or he writes all the time and, like Gogol at the end of his life, burns the manuscripts. Or he has volumes and volumes just waiting to be published posthumously.” Who really knows.
“There is an abiding urge to regard his withdrawal as some kind of statement when it was surely intended as just the opposite,” said Xan Brooks in the Guardian. There’s also a tendency to “enshrine his absence as if it's a presence while his actual output slips further into the past.” But that suggests a “hideous irony”—that “we may have now reached a point where the hermit in the woods speaks more loudly than the books that he wrote.”
“A smaller writer would surely have exhausted the patience of his fans long ago,” said David Usborne in The Independent. After all, Salinger hasn’t published anything since 1965. But although he “would rather that we paid no heed” to his birthday, Salinger “is too mighty and too intriguing a figure for that to be possible.”
And he’s still widely read, said Marjorie Kehe in The Christian Science Monitor. The Catcher in the Rye remains on high school reading lists, and the book “continues to sell about 250,000 copies a year.” Salinger may be out of sight, but he’s certainly not out of mind.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- In defense of Gwyneth Paltrow
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Republicans love this new health care plan. Too bad it's basically a tax cut for the rich.
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- 17 old proverbs we should use more often
- 8 tricks to surviving the holidays without gaining weight or being grouchy
- Chuck Hagel wasn't the problem. It's America's addiction to endless war.
Subscribe to the Week