Friday, January 29, 2010

J.D. Salinger: 1919-2010

J.D. Salinger's death made front page news today. His book, The Catcher in the Rye, is on list of books to read since Salinger captured the same time period which I am writing about.

As the literary world wonders if several unpublished novels will be discovered in a safe in Salinger's home, here is a thought-provoking quote for all writers:

"Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure."

How many of us would say that?
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elysabeth said...

That's sad but I've heard a lot of writers say they write for their own pleasure as opposed to writing for others. Unfortunately if you want to make it in this world as a writer, you have to write for the masses.

I haven't even turned on the news so hadn't heard this. Thanks for sharing - E :)

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

To be honest, I get great satisfaction out of a story that didn't exist before I wrote it. I do want others to read it and it's easy to get hooked on that but I kind of understand where he is coming from.

I wonder what he did to put the food on the table, though. Did Catcher in the Rye take care of that so he could simply write for pleasure from then on?

Clay Carmichael said...

Catcher in the Rye wasn't "my" book, but Nine Stories, Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters and Franny and Zooey spoke volumes to me as a young person and a young writer, both. What's interesting is that snarky, over-privileged. hermetic Salinger spoke also to my spirit and my questing, questioning spiritual life. I was quite sure Salinger was writing for himself and his own pleasure and that's something I loved about him and his books.

I write for myself, for the child & adult & story lover inside me, first and foremost. It's hard enough pleasing THIS reader--I'm a tough room.

Carol Baldwin said...

APparently this quote is more thought provoking than I thought it would be! Now that I'm writing my first novel, I am taking pleasure just in the process of writing it. But there is also a part of me that dreams of sharing it with the world. I guess both keep me going.

CL said...

Franny and Zooey is one of my favorites, but Nine Stories is also amazing.
Maybe especially because I'm pre-published, I happily look forward to readers! I'm also a painter, and to me one of the great things about making art is seeing what the work becomes once its out in the world, having a life of its own.

Jean said...

I love the writing process, too. But one of the things I enjoy most about "writing" is sharing it, knowing that my scirbbles mean something to other humans and somehow add to their lives.


MathildeHayward said...


Clay Carmichael said...
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Carol Baldwin said...

thank you for taking the time to write such a thought-provoking comment. I haven't read much of salinger's work, but after reading what you wrote I am very motivated to do so. I believe I am learning to write because I love it and as you said, to please myself first. This is an amazing journey to be on and I am thankful for authors like yourself, who I can look to as a model.

Clay Carmichael said...

Every writer wants readers, even those who write foremost to please themselves. And while misanthropic Salinger really soured on celebrity, I think he wanted them too, at least some of the time. (And I have no doubt he cashed those royalty checks.)

In "Catcher in the Rye" Holden Caulfield says, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours.”

And the end of Franny and Zooey! About shining your shoes for the audience, for Seymour's Fat Lady, and who she really is?

And Salinger's own dedication for "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour an Introduction" which is dedicated to the reader: "If there is an amateur reader still left in the world--or anybody who just reads and runs--I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children."

But Salinger also wrote that the audience's reaction was "none of your business, really... An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's.

I like that, though I wouldn't use the word perfection. I'd say I'm aiming for 'quality and heart' as my colleague Allan Wolf beautifully put it. And I can't be thinking about the mass market or a lot of people I don't know while I'm struggling toward that. Afterward? When lovely and appreciative people are moved by the work--that's gravy. But I have to please and move myself before I even have a chance of moving anybody else.

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