“It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer’s feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his waking years.” J. D. Salinger, 1961When I looked for quotes by Salinger on writing to head this blog entry, I found little in the way of actual quotes from him. The quotes are mainly pulled from his own works. Why did that surprise me?
I can’t help but wonder what Salinger thought of this new technology, of writers taking the Web by promotional storm and getting their thoughts out to hundreds, even millions of fans. Thoughts that may have nothing to do with writing, everything to do with the hopes of gaining more readers and, less selfishly, of connecting. For those of us who don’t have the instinctual talent that he had, coming out of obscurity is not just requested, but demanded by publishers. Many agents and editors will not take on a writer, in fact, if they aren’t willing to meet the public and circulate, both physically and virtually.
In the words of another classic, this is a Catch-22: small press authors are more able to market their books, allowing for literature that may have quickly disappeared to actually flourish for a while. I have the naïve hope that this will slowly bring quality literature to the younger crowd who may buy a book or download an e-version if they’ve connected with a writer on Goodreads or Facebook.
However, this all takes up valuable time. And that is the flip side of promotion and marketing—it robs the author during her or his “waking years” of that time and solitude that’s necessary to create.
There are rumors Salinger continued to write in his Cornish, NH, home, and perhaps we will now find out if there is anything to be published posthumously. But my guess is he’s left strict orders to keep it under wraps.
Salinger didn’t commit suicide or drive himself to an early death like Monroe or Presley, which allowed them to remain perpetual icons. But he committed a form of media suicide, in essence, by cutting himself off from journalists and biographers and interviewers.
I hope his privacy will continue to be respected. In our tell-all society, I’d hate to see his works or letters or journals published now (though I admit I would buy them). Let him remain in his chosen state, and may we always wonder what he believed to be the writer’s first most valuable property. Let the mystery linger on. . . .