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Тед Ватанаб. Викриття у формі книги

Есе про біографію Селінджера, написану Полом Александером

 Ted Watanabe
A Tabloid Expose in Book Form (A True Shame)

Paul Alexander, the author of this biography, may have a genuine admiration for J.D. Salinger, but he clearly has no true understanding of the man. This biographer's approach to Salinger's life more closely resembles a tabloid publication's expose of a pedophile priest.

Aside from the differences that any group of people can have over the interpretation of any story, it seems apparent that Alexander has no clear understanding of the classic literature that Salinger loved. He lists the authors that Salinger admired, yet doesn't seem to have an awareness of the works and how they're integrated into many of Salinger's stories.

The most horrifying revelation of this biography, for me, is the realization that many people especially this biographer have misinterpreted the story "Teddy." Salinger chooses his words and titles painstakingly carefully for a reason. Alexander's conclusions (as well as the public's), that Teddy kills his sister in the story, shows either his lack of awareness of what's going on or maybe he never read the story.

Even though the story, "Teddy", was extremely successful, Salinger's disappointment to the public's reaction of the story is apparent in his story character's, and alter ego Buddy Glass', comments in "Seymour an Introduction," " ... few years ago, I published an exceptionally Haunting, Memorable, unpleasantly controversial, and thoroughly unsucessful short story about a 'gifted' little boy... " These comments alone shows Salinger's disappointment in the fact that "people just don't get it."

Though, Salinger needs no defenders, I believe his fascination with young people (including and especially young women) manifests from a pure source. It is his awareness that people are most whole when they're young and not old. It is his awareness of the time in peoples lives before they accept the limits, lies, and illusions of huge institutions and the infuences of self motivated family members and friends. It is Salinger's awareness of a time when the joy of life exists in experiencing and not acquiring.

This book has some interesting facts that many people may find engaging and interesting. It is an easy enough book to read and enjoy. However, the best thing you can do if you truly want to know J.D. Salinger is to just read the books he wrote. And if you want more.. Read the books Salinger read... Rilke, Shelley, Fitzgerald, Keats, etc....

A Book Review, and Personal Narrative - Scout Thompson

Hardcover books, a frequent pleasure to the collector; have got nothing on soft-cover when it concerns the downtrodden college students of the day. If you're going to leap for a hardcover; its gotta be worth something more than that library book aesthetic; more than a book you'll want on some dreamed of bookshelf in your suburban study. So it was rare for me to view, with such excitement, the white, dust-jacketed hardcover of "Salinger: An Autobiography" by Paul Alexander. Biographies be damned, what got me is the large print maroon word; looking at me like a challenge: SALINGER.

I dropped the obligatory $24.95 [US] and returned home, cracking open its spine with all the lewd audacity of one child raised on tabloids and Maury Povich. But perhaps; just perhaps, I should explain my curiosity with Salingers personal life, as much as I'd like to believe I am a separate being from those unwashed masses who read People magazine and wonder what Nicole Kidman will be wearing to the next Academy Awards.

People talk like Catcher in the Rye is the greatest contribution to American literature since that god awful "Great Gatsby" garbage. I mean; I can take Fitzgerald as much as anyone; and that scene, with the scarves, absolutely killer. But to me; it was Franny and Zooey that said what nothing else in the cabal of American Literature has had to say. And if you haven't read it; well, you quite not ought to be reading this; if you'll excuse me; I haven't got much desire to explain myself to every precocious 8th and 9th grader in the country who read Catcher and wonders why "Mr. Salinger doesn't write anymore." Okay, maybe that's too harsh. I mean I know it is. So lets just get on with it.

I'm a writer, and as you can tell by my painfully veiled colloquialisms, I have no unique style, whatsoever. Quite a tragedy, in fact; to have this writing voice so similar to JD Salinger. I mean if you write like Fitzgerald or Hemingway its all fine and good; but write like Salinger and you're derivative. I mean look at that Updike guy. You read A&P and wonder just what the hell he thought he was doing. And then I write like this; a tragedy, I tell you, an absolute goddamned tragedy. I mean lets not call this a parody. This is how I write and its how I talk, thanks very much; but I suppose, like I said, I better just get on with this.

Salinger lives in a town about a rocks throw from my house, and I've been interested in some key aspects of his life for hundreds of years. Reclusive, into Zen Buddhism, and living with a steady flow of 18 year old girls. And my class read "Bananafish" my senior year in high school and the general consensus was that our Seymour was a Pedophile. Yep. God bless these American minds, I tell you. I ripped out of the classroom as soon as the bell rang.

See I've got some problems myself. I write for my own sakes and have no desire to go through the rituals of publishing. I am, almost consistently, attracted to girls who are 17 years old. I mean I'm in college so its not that bad. But there's a lot to be said about the age of 17. I mean for one thing; its the last time you really think you could die from this goddamned beauty. Sorry for throwing this at you already. But at 17 you have got tap dancing red headed girls, and you have got these blonde women reading bibles with cups of coffee, and you've this job that you know is meaningless. You're in a place you know for about 1 more year and then its off to college or the marines or, I guess, home; but everything you know is gone. But I mean the other thing about being 17 is you're able to be a child and an adult at the same time by really, actually being neither of them. I mean lets look at my other favorite Jewish guy with a weird obsession for young girls; if you want to get what its all about go rent "Manhattan" by Woody Allen.

Lets not get into some psycho-sexual literary debate over this Lolita crap, either, please. I mean you can call it sick or whatever that some 68 year old man lives with an 18 year old girl, but I think Sonny has proven himself enough by this point to get the credit he deserves. I mean, read "For Esme With Love and Squalor" and then ask yourself if the guy is a pervert. He's not. He's absolutely in love with innocence, and he absolutely despises the worlds crushing mechanisms. And so the reporters say; "Why Does Jerry abandon fame? And why does he live with this steady influx of 18 year old girls?" I mean let me tell you something; the answers are in his books, for christs sakes. I mean, that's how I found his house.

Yeah, you heard me right. I went to his house. Me and a girl; who, for all extensive purposes, was Franny; went up to Cornish in black pea coats and a 1997 Red Mercury Cougar. And we stopped in front of his house. I know, because I've seen pictures. And we looked, and then we drove off. We had been thinking of going in; but lets face it, he's made it damn clear he's not into that sort of thing. And as we drove away, I noticed an old man, with big, muddy boots and blue jeans. A suede-looking jacket. And he looked at me; with eyes that looked like he was just waiting for us to stop and say something stupid. I couldn't bare it, so I drove off, pretending to be just lost in town.

Now, there's been this documentary done by the CBC or BBC or some foreign agency and it showed his house and the convenience store and finally, video tapes of JD himself. And it was him. I mean I knew it then, but I knew it, I knew it when I saw the tape.

But lets talk a bit about this book now, shall we? Lets start off with some background on the author, Paul Alexander. Ol' Paul tells us from the start that Catcher was his favorite book. Now let me say something and lets not get mistaken about it. Catcher is a masterpiece. I mean it, a full grown masterpiece. But we've got enough masterpieces. F&Z isn't a masterpiece; its a goddamned ritual. Its a guideline. Its a course in Zen for the disenchanted American. And it seems to me that if someone is going to write a book on JD Salinger, it had better- I mean absolutely better, be someone with a healthy love of F&Z. Someone who has actually spent a sleepless night with Seymour: An Introduction and not skipped a single footnote. And someone, I should assume, with a healthy, working knowledge of Rilke, Issa, Bassho, and Lao Tzu. Paul Alexander is not that man.

He ends the book in typical "More questions than answers" style, a convenient enigmatic ending for a biography where the biographer gets inside of no ones head whatsoever. The conclusion of the book? Salinger stopped writing because he lost touch with his talent; went reclusive because he couldn't stand bad reviews, and has an unnatural thing for young girls. Paul Alexander would have done well in my senior year short story class.

I mean lets think about how much money our friend Paul has made off of this massacre. A printed massacre. I suppose he's done as good a job as he could. I mean I am probably being harsh to this very pure man with all the innocence of someone who really loves "Catcher in the Rye" and missed Franny and Zooey completely. I mean I've got to feel a bit sad for the manner in which havoc is wreaked by the innocents of this world on those of us, like JD, who have got the vision to remain sensitive to every trampled dandelion, as certain as we are that it pops up somewhere else.

This is getting atrociously long, and so I am going to start in on the biography of Salinger which aired on Bravo here in the states a few weeks ago [as of this writing.] Lets start with on thing; it, also, focused on Salinger as the "writer of Catcher in the Rye." I mean I don't want to be fascist about it; I understand that many, many people get a great deal out of Catcher and that, missing Seymour or F&Z's point makes them not terrible people; it just makes them people that shouldn't attempt to capture a guy on film or in print. They have no idea what sort of damage they are doing; however pretty that damage may be inflicted. I mean its quite touching and heart breaking in that way that drives you absolutely goddamned crazy to be alive. I'm certain if I met any of these people I would smile and say to them that I, also, am an avid reader of JD Salinger.

So maybe I should cool off for a bit; get a sip of water, or something, before I sink my teeth into that film. Before I go, let me just say this: There is no reason whatsoever that Dixieland Jazz, played by a MIDI Synthesis thing off a computer, is appropriate music for a biography of a Jewish New Yorker. I mean I'd have to check my sources, but I'm quite sure Woody Allen would be the only exception. I'm off for a drink.

Water, filtered, no ice; from a coca-cola glass. The sort of drink you say "amen" to afterward. Lets start, then, on that holiest of notes; and hopefully I can remember just how clear that water is.

JD Salinger was born January 1st, 1919. That is the same day my grandfather, James, was born. Vincenzo, actually. Later he changed it to James. Both served during WW2. That makes Salinger 81 years old. If he is anything like my grandfather, he's quite content to go for long walks on occasion and live an otherwise quiet life, as the war has made many people want to lead, especially those who saw battles as fierce as the ones Salinger, and my Grandfather, saw. Thats the safe analysis.

Meanwhile, in WW2, Salinger meets a girl in Vienna and they go ice skating. I mean this has happened, its in letters and whatnot. And Salinger goes nuts about her. He doesn't forget her for ages. I mean that's just how it is; you find a girl and you do something like tie her shoelaces on ice skates and that's it, you're done for life. That image is ingrained into your soul like it was communion. And you know, I think it is.

I mean what's a mystic to do these days? God has been a bit more discrete lately than in those days of parting seas and turning women into pillars of salt. I mean God has started getting a bit subtler. You want god? Get some lemonade, a beach chair, and go out on a green lawn and listen to "How Much is That Doggy in the Window." And if your hairs stand on end, and your eyes water, just for a second, and at the same time you feel like glowing with light; like you're going to be okay and that beauty is absolutely surrounding you; well, then, you can start to do a biography on Salinger that hits on what needs to be hit upon.

Because when you do a biography that hopes to understand the writing of JD Salinger; or Rilke, or Issa, or Bassho, or Lao Tzu, and commit it to film; you've gotta understand that you're being quite redundant to start with. I mean if you want to get to the heart of it, maybe just an hour and a half of shots of thirsty people drinking cold water would be appropriate. Anything besides that is just redundant, it seems to me.

I'm looking this over and it seems terribly snide and sideways; and I kind of understand why it is that JD pretends Buddy wrote all his stories. I mean its less ego, that way. I mean you don;t have to worry about sounding terrible for criticising John Updikes A&P. I mean thats just as bad as what I'm saying is bad; to go and be like "Oh, Updike? He's so derivative." I mean I bet you wouldn't even think I love that story. But I do love that story. I mean that's the problem, is you love something and criticize it anyway. Or accidentally. I mean you end up accidentally trampling them; the dandelions and the people who pick them, both. But we're all doing it, all the time; we're picking dandelions when we get so mad at the ones who pick them, you know.

And it seems like, there's just nothing you can do- but stop writing.

 


Aerius 2003




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