Confession – I used to say that J.D. Salinger was one of my favourite authors, until I started to get the feeling that it wasn’t cool, and that only moping teenagers identified with his writing. And like a lot of people, I’d kind of just assumed he’d kicked the bucket a long time ago, until he resurfaced to stop that crappy-sounding Catcher sequel from being published.
But now it’s time to say that Franny and Zooey is still one of my favourites and probably the most re-read book in my collection (I have the occasional bout of insomnia, and always turn to the same handful of books to calm me down during the night). It has the best description of a bathroom ever – who didn’t want a good long smoke in the tub after reading it? And the dialogue between matriarch Bessie Glass and bathing beauty Zooey Glass is truly LOL-worthy (a term which I promise I only bestow upon things that actually make me laugh. Out loud.)
“The word is ‘washcloth,’ not ‘washrag,’ and all I want, God damn it, Bessie, is to be left alone in this bathroom. That’s my one simple desire. If I’d wanted this place to fill up with every fat Irish rose that passes by, I’d’ve said so. Now, c’mon. Get out.”
“Zooey,” Mrs. Glass said patiently. “I’m holding a clean washrag in my hand. Do you or don’t you want it? Just yes or no, please.”
“Oh, my God! Yes. Yes. Yes. More than anything in the world. Throw it over.”
And for the record, his famously liberal use of italics doesn’t bother me at all.
I read a lot of Salinger stuff over the weekend (like Dave Eggers’ love letter in The New Yorker and The Onion’s ode to phonies), as well as the required number of stories-locked-up-in-a-safe theories. By far my favourite tribute was this one, from Jezebel’s Sadie Stein. She ends it with an anecdote that’s just too good not to rip off and include here:
On that note, the other day I met a guy on the street. “If I was gonna talk to you it was now or never,” he said, by way of introduction, “and I can see from your face that you wish it had been never.” After that I felt bad, and he was clearly a lot younger than me and harmless if weird, and it was broad daylight, so we walked together to the subway. His name was David. He was obviously an enormous fuckup. He talked incessantly and told me he’d been kicked out of community college recently and was living at home. His mom was a big activist, which had made him apolitical. His dad lived “somewhere in Asia, not sure.” He was also sleeping with a “cougar,” and also a girl his own age, even though she was “a cornball and a social-climber.” She was insecure, “but maybe she should be – that sounds bad, but maybe that’s okay, sometimes – because she doesn’t have her own shit going on. I mean, she’s into shit, but she doesn’t have her own shit.” He didn’t like to read but, and here he produced, Mark David Chapman style, a copy of Catcher in the Rye (the burgundy one) from his backpack. “That’s some shit, right there,” he said, and replaced it. It occurred to me then that he was sort of much more of a logical heir to that book than all the preppy fashion-spreads and disaffected actors put together, and something about it made me very happy. “Well, I’ll be seeing you,” he said when we reached the subway (although this was obviously not true) and got on his bike to go to “the Jewish Center, because on Thursdays they have free cookies.”