Saturday, 6 February 2010

Terminally Dense, Me

Given how little I watch TV and how rarely I read newspapers, if it weren't for blogland I might not know that J.D. Salinger died recently, aged 91. Through a link from RealDelia I found this article and plowed my way through it.

My favourite phrase was "To spell it out for the terminally dense..." especially since it was followed by a comparison of Salinger with Thomas Pynchon. I am obviously one of those who needed the spelling, as I had to look up Pynchon to see who he was. I've never heard of any of his works, but the salient point seemed to be that that both lived very reclusive lives. This is apparently a difficult concept for folks to grasp, in this world of PR, Tweeting and Get Me Out of Here I'm a (wannabe) Celebrity. The idea of a quiet life being a quality life must perplex some people.

The fact that Salinger last published in 1965, aged 46, reminded me of what I found about Harper Lee, having mentioned To Kill a Mockingbird the other day: that she has only written that one book (besides 3-4 magazine articles) and it was published in 1960, when she was 34. She is, so far as I can tell, alive and well in Alabama. Reading through the whole Wikipaedia entry just now, I see they have also compared her with J.D. in this way, having retired after a single major book, though she is quoted as having been frightened by her overwhelming success. (Who knew she hung out with Truman Capote?) Bill had heard of TKAM, but mainly because of the movie; I remember it being a school assignment to read. Catcher in the Rye I had to seek out for myself some years later.

I was thinking that having a quiet life is lovely, I certainly enjoy mine, though let's be right about it I've never been in the slightest danger of being famous, even locally. It does seem sad to me that they apparently abandoned a gift that moved many people. Perhaps they both found other talents that were just as fulfilling for them. Perhaps it's not like I have always assumed: one is good at what one likes to do and one likes to do what one is good at. Maybe they didn't really like writing much. It does sound as though they didn't like having their work judged more than they didn't like writing; Salinger reported continued to write without the intention of seeking further publication.

I was relieved when the Terminally Dense article referred to the Mitford sisters, I didn't have to look them up! They were from just up the road, in Northumberland, near where I used to work. (Who knew that Mitford Hall was owned by the infamous Freddy Shepherd? Well, that's another post there...).

Perhaps after I've re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye -- and all of Jane Austen's work, of course -- I'll go find some of the Mitford girls' biographies in the local library. They should be good for some laughs.


Frugal Scholar said...

Did you see the movie CAPOTE? There was a lot on the Capote/Lee relationship.

Toad said...

I believe the character Dill was modeled on Truman Capote.

Shelley said...

FS & Toad - So, a lot of people knew about Capote, huh? The Wikipedia thing says that Dill was Capote. Nope, never seen the film...might need to look into that.

Boywilli said...

I found this link on my nephew Tim's blog